The Burma Army is sending extra troops, arms and food supplies to the Tavoy (Dawei) area in southern Burma in what local Karen says are signs that the government troops are about to launch a major offensive against the Karen National Union.
A Karen National Union military source said that by the end of October, 20 Burma Army military trucks transported around 3,000 sacks of rice and military supplies to Myitta village east of Tavoy.
The Karen National Union in the area is on high alert in response to the Burma Army’s preparations.
Saw Kwe Htoo Win, chairman of the KNU’s Mergui-Tavoy District (Tenasserim Division) told Karen News.
“Normally every dry season the Burma Army transports food supplies to their frontline troops, but the build-up this year suggests that they will launch a major offensive.”
The actions of the Burma Army is seen by the KNU as a military move to secure the Tavoy-Kanchanaburi road construction, which passes through a KNU controlled area.
Saw Kwe Htoo’s says in recent months the KNU placed a ban on the Italian-Thai Development Company’s Kanchanaburi-Tavoy road construction – the 160-kilometer road is part of the $60 billion dollar project planned for southern Burma.
“The build up of [Burma Army] troops concentrated along the Tavoy-Kanchanaburi road construction is a sign that the Burma Army is trying to secure the construction route. If the Burmese Army launches an offensive we will fight back. We are not a ceasefire group and if the fighting increases the company will not able to implement their project.”
According to KNU sources the Burma Army is waiting for the Italian-Thai Development Company repair the road from Myitta village to Thai Burma border. In recent months the Burma Army sent an extra eight battalions to the area and need to begin transporting military supplies and food to them. The road was destroyed during this year’s monsoon.
The Burma Army is happening at the same time the KNU and government ceasefire negotiators are meeting.
Karen National Union sources say that on October 10, representatives of the KNU met with Burma’s government ‘peace mediators’ – the Rail Transportation Minister Aung Min (also referred to as the ‘peace-making minister’), former Major General Chit Than, Dr. Tin Maung Than, Dr. Kyaw Yin and businessmen including Win Soe and Ko Ko Maung.
During the meeting the KNU put forward a position of calling for a nation wide ceasefire – not only with the KNU but with all ethnic groups – and told the meeting that all political negotiations must go through the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), the ethnic alliance.
In a move to weaken the effectiveness of the ethnic alliance the government has indicated that they will hold separate talks with the different armed ethnic groups.
Naw Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the Karen National Union said.
“The government slogan is ‘Lasting Peace’. To gain lasting peace the government should not try to solve the conflicts by dividing the ethnic alliance. If the government really wants a lasting peace they should make a nationwide ceasefire. Otherwise, the peace deals will be not last for long and the situation will be like what we have now with fighting in different ethnic areas.”
The KNU have said they will continue to discuss the governments ‘peace talks’ with members of its Standing Committee (representatives of districts and brigades). The recent talks is the first meeting between senior government representatives and the KNU – the KNU has made it clear that they it will only negotiate peace directly with the central government.