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Fresh DKBA troops reject junta Border Guard Force

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) –  A wave of officers and soldiers from battalions of the junta-allied Democratic Karen Buddhist Army have joined a rebel brigade that has rejected the junta’s offer – in effect a demand – for it to bring its troops under Burmese Army command within a special border force in eastern Burma, according to Karen officers.

DKBA-scarfThe troops joined the 5th Brigade led by Colonel Saw Lar Pwe, some DKBA officers said, of the brigade that has rejected the junta’s proposal – made to all Burmese ethnic minority groups – to transform their armed wings and be led by the junta’s army commanders within the Border Guard Force (BGF).

According to the Karen Information Centre yesterday, Brigadier General Than Soe, commander of Military Operations Command Eight based in Kyarinnseikgyi Township in Karen State, had given Saw Lar Pwe an ultimatum to bring his troops into the BGF by today.

Dissent against the BGF idea, however, appeared to be growing today as DBKA Colonel Saw Chit Thu led 19 soldiers from the DKBA’s 999th Brigade to join the 5th Brigade’s Kalo Htoo Baw strategic command. They took with them more than 20 weapons including rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, M-16s automatic rifles, M-79 grenade launchers, AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, a DKBA officer said. 

Meanwhile, DKBA Quartermaster Sergeant Saw Palo also today led a separate group of soldiers to join the 5th Brigade, the officer said.

“They took their families. We will offer them their former positions. We already have arranged for their security”, an officer from the 5th Brigade said.

As part of a ceasefire agreement with a number of ethnic militia groups around the country, the junta gave the DKBA special rights to control a region in eastern Burma’s Karen State, to collect taxes and to conduct businesses.

Although top DKBA officers accepted the junta’s proposal to bring its troops into the BGF, some factions have sought to reject the proposal on concerns about being disarmed. Colonel Saw Lar Pwe had made clear he was against the proposal.

On learning of this, a convoy of senior junta officers, including Military Affairs Security commander Lieutenant General Ye Myint, set out for Myawaddy on the Thai border last Thursday to “persuade” the rebel brigade to accept the BGF offer. Their vehicles however were ambushed at a checkpoint by Christian-led Karen National Union (KNU) forces, leaving at least one junta soldier dead.

Naypyidaw had planned that the DKBA would join the BGF next Wednesday in a formal ceremony, which was to follow another ethnic Karen group, the Karen Peace Force (KPF), who were set to join on Monday. It designed that a BGF battalion would have 326 soldiers, 30 of which were to be commanders and non-commissioned officers form the Burmese Army.

Tension has been growing between the Burmese Army and the DKBA for months, amid rumours that some DKBA soldiers would rather return to the forest than adhere to the junta’s plan.

And according to Phaan District KNU chairman Padoh Saw Maw Aye, soldiers from DKBA battalions were trying to contact the KNU to rejoin its ranks after breaking away in 1994, Phaan District KNU chairman Padoh Saw Maw Aye told Mizzima.

“We accept our Karen people. Some contacted us. If they serve in the KNU, we will accept them. Even if they don’t want to work with the KNU, we will arrange safe places for them to live with their families”, Padoh Saw Maw Aye said.

Lieutenant Colonel Likethaint, the commanding officer of battalion seven under the 999th Brigade, which had decided to join the BGF, told Mizzima: “The soldiers, who rejoined the KNU sealed their fate. If something goes wrong, we can’t save them. They’ve chosen their path.”

The DKBA was formed by Myaingyingu abbot Thu Zana after it split from the KNU in 1994 over claims that the KNU’s Christian leadership was biased against Buddhist members of its militia. The DKBA then signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta.

Military experts estimate the DKBA’s troop strength at more than 7,000.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 August 2010 17:51 )  

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