By SAW YAN NAING Wednesday, October 13, 2010
KNLA Brigade 5 troops prepare to resist the Burmese government and DKBA offensive. (PHOTO: Saw Yan Naing/ The Irrawaddy)
PAPUN DISTRICT, Karen State—The commander of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 5 has told all soldiers in his command along the bank of the River Salween to be prepared as the Burmese regime plans to clean up the border areas after the Nov. 7 election, said KNLA sources who spoke to The Irrawaddy in a KNLA base on the Salween in northern Karen State.
“They [the government army] won’t leave KNLA forces sitting undisturbed on the border after the election—they plan to clear us out,” said Ka Nyaw Poe, a KNLA soldier. “The coming offensive is a major concern for all of us.”
The Burmese regime is expected to order the troops of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) that became a border guard force under Burmese army control to attack KNLA bases located on the lower part of the Salween River and on the bank of Moei River in southern Karen State.
Burmese government troops will, in the meantime, clean up KNLA Brigade 5 bases located between the Moei River and along the upper Salween throughout northern Karen State.
The government forces are expected to start their offensive in southern Karen State where KNLA Brigades 6 and 7 are based and continue through to northern Karen State where Brigades 5, 3, 2 and 1 operate, according to KNLA and DKBA sources on the border.
“We heard they [Burmese regime troops] will bombard our bases with mortar fire before launching ground attacks,” said a KNLA soldier called Pah Baw.
With a contingent estimated at more than 1000 strong, Dae Pu Noh, the headquarters of KNLA Brigade 5, is one of the strongest bases and a prime target. It is a medical and military training base with more than 20 buildings including offices, schools, clinics and training facilities.
Despite repeated attempts to overrun Dae Pu Noh in the past, Burmese government troops have failed to take the base.
Karen sources said that if the offensive succeeds, thousands of people will flee into the jungle in northern Karen State, becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Karen State. More than 3,000 Karen refugees in Ei Tu Hta, a temporary camp on the Salween, will be forced to cross the river onto Thai soil.
Thai military sources and some observers are worried that a major military offensive against all ethnic armed groups representing the Mon, Karen, Karenni, Shan, Wa and Kachin from southern to northern Burma will be launched by the Burmese regime after the election.
In a secret meeting in Chiang Mai in September, ethnic armed groups reportedly agreed to provide military assistance to each other if they are attacked. The ethnic leaders also exchanged military information and tactics at the meeting.
The meeting was attended by the Kachin Independence Organization, the Shan State Army–North, the New Mon State Party, the Chin National Front, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Karen National Union.