Burmese artillery and other units, seen advancing towards the Thai/Burma border

FRIDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2010 17:03

Burmese army forces are advancing towards the border of eastern Burma, though the specific target of the advance remains unclear, say sources from the area.

Nearly 200 Burmese soldiers from an unidentified battalion were seen marching at Chaung Hnit Khwa village, towards Kyainnseikyi Township, Karen state, at 5 pm on February 23rd and again on February 24th. According to the source, who was traveling between Mudon town and Three Pagoda Pass town, the Burmese soldiers had been in the process of transporting artillery units by ferry across the river at Chaung Hnit Khwa village.

When asked about the advancing Burmese unit, a member from the Karen National Union (KNU) military intelligence program told IMNA that while they didn’t know which battalion it is, they said it would be under operating under the Burmese Southeast Command (SEC) located in Moulmein town.

According to the opinion of a Burma army observer and expert in military analysis, from the recent citing of the Burmese unit, he believes it is likely that there are more then just 200 Burmese soldiers on the move, from other units, and that they could be headed towards two or more destinations.

In a similar report, IMNA learned from a source within the Karen Peace Council (KPC), that Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) soldiers had recently combined with a unit from Burmese army Infantry Battalion (IB) No.77 on a march towards KNU Bridge No. 6. The KPC member added, “These Burmese soldiers will be there until after finish of the coming election. They will not leave if the election doesn’t finish.” The Burmese government is slated to hold an election in 2010, the first since 1990. The Recently redrafted constitution requires that the Burmese government control the only standing army in the country – thus necessitating that all other armed groups disband or reform under the control of the government.

The KPC and the DKBA are both Karen splinter groups that split from the KNU in February 2007 and December 1994 respectively; both are now allied with the Burmese army.

Burmese and DKBA soldiers, and members of the Nai Aung Naing splinter group, were also recently seen assembling together, after which they departed from the village, said a witness from Waytarli village in Kyainnseikyi Township.

Though most sources seem to indicate these ad hock Burmese combined units are intending to travel into KNU Brigade No.6 territory, a source close to members of the KNU’s armed forces, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), said they believe the forces are marching towards the village of Bleh-donephai, in territory controlled by the New Mon State Party (NMSP).

The KNU has been engaged in continuous armed conflict with the Burmese government since 1949, after Burma was granted independence from British rule. Since then the Burmese government has made significant territorial gains against the KNU / KNLA, continuing most recently with the KNLA’s loss of the hard fough

The NMSP, though having signed as ceasefire with the Burmese government in 1995, has been under increasing pressure from the Burmese government to accept a proposal to form a Border Guard Force (BGF). The BGF would reduce the NMSP’s armed wing to 326 members with Burmese military officers in command. The NMSP rejected the BGF proposal on August 4th, 2009.

Chairmen of the NMSP, Nai Htaw Mon, touched on the topic of the BGF in his speech at the 63rd anniversary of Mon National Day, stating, “The Burmese regime has restricted the ethnic armed parties, including cease fire groups, so that they would agree to becoming a Border Guard Force (BGF) or people’s militia without asking the ethnic populations desire – but the BGF hasn’t happened yet.”

A Mon political leader who requested his name be withheld from this articles, stated that the NMSP had already told the Burmese government that they would not accept the BGF and that since the SPDC has not asked again. “As we know the other ethnic groups also would not accept the BGF even they didn’t give a response with certainty. As a result we face restrictions [by the SPDC].”

He added that it was often a common strategy of the Burmese regime to attempt to create a split among the ethnics groups. However he said, “[We] won’t see every party who cooperates with the Burmese regime getting benefits to their ethnics group for the long term. The party that works together with the regime will get benefit immediately but it will decrease regularly after getting two or three years.”

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