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Ethnic alliance to set up ‘federal army’

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Six armed ethnic groups that formed an alliance this week against the Burmese Army amid fears of a post-election junta offensive have set the formation of a “federal army” as their main priority, according to Radio Free Asia and independent sources.

The primary goal was set after a series of meetings in northern Thailand yesterday, at which the bloc also decided to create a working committee to carry out political and military strategies as a joint force.

The alliance comprises ceasefire groups, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Shan State Army North (SSA-N); and non-ceasefire groups, the Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Chin National Front (CNF).

It named Kachin Independence Army (KIA) chief Major General N-Ban La Aung as its chairman. He is also deputy chief of the KIA’s political wing, the KIO. Major General Mutu Saypo from the KNU is vice-chairman, NMSP secretary Nai Hang Thar, the general secretary, and Shwe Myo Thant from the KNPP, joint-secretary.

The group expected the Burmese Army to launch attacks on one of its members some time after Burma’s first elections in 20 years on Sunday. The aim of the alliance was to assist each member fend off any such offensives, the report said.

Tension between ceasefire groups and the Burmese Army has escalated since groups such as the KIO, UWSA, 1st Brigade of the SSA-N, National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS) and the NMSP refused to become part of the Border Guard Force (BGF), a junta proposal requiring that the groups bring their troops under junta Burmese Army command.

In September, the Burmese Army launched three small attacks on the 1st Brigade of the SSA-N. At the same time, junta mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar daily newspaper branded the KIO “insurgents”, possibly the first time the group has been so labelled in the 16 years since the ceasefire agreement was reached.

Meanwhile, four clashes have already taken place between the Shan State Army South (SSA-S, a non-ceasefire group) and the Burmese Army in central and eastern Shan State since mid-October. The toll was 11 Burmese troops killed and more than a dozen wounded, according to sources inside Shan State. The SSA-S also managed to seize some weapons from their foes.

Some of the ethnic group’s fighters were also wounded in the clashes, according to the Shan Herald Agency for News reports.

Sao Lao Hseng, spokesperson for the SSA-S said: “Our fighters attacked specific units of the Burmese Army because they couldn’t bear to see the villagers being abused by the Burmese soldiers. Our soldiers retaliated because of the actions of the Burmese soldiers.”

Recently, he said, Burmese troops had abused villagers, who had then complained to SSA-S fighters active in the area. He cited the 510 light infantry battalion (LIB), alleging that it had assaulted villagers and taken property whenever its men entered a village in Mong Yawn area, Mong Kung township.

The spokesman warned: “We have a duty to protect our people and we will retaliate against the units of the Burmese Army that are abusing our people.”

The SSA-S, commanded by Sao Yawd Serk, is the only Shan armed force that has continuously fought the Burmese Army. It was reformed after the Mong Tai Army led by Khun Sa surrendered in 1995.

The group has strong bases along the Thai-Burmese border and its headquarters is in Loi Tai Leng, opposite Mae Hong Son province, Thailand. It is believed to be the strongest force among the non-ceasefire groups.

Meanwhile, a long-time Burma analyst told Mizzima that the committee was also making approaches to the SSA-S and UWSA because of their strong forces and that so far, the former group was considering that offer.

“But the SSA-S wants to see real action rather than political firefights,” he said. “Without SSA-South and UWSA, the KIO is the strongest group.”

The analyst believed the UWSA was the smartest of the armed ethnic groups. “They play deaf and dumb on politics but they haven’t lost any ground. Instead, they’ve actually extended their territory and their army.”

He also relegated the NDAA and Mong La groups to the status of “playthings”.

“[Those two groups] are their [UWSA’s] puppets. There are many UWSA troops in NDAA areas, which means their front line is in NDAA’s sector, not Pangsang.”

Some might label them drug lords but they were powerful, the analyst said. The United Nations was running projects in their area as well, he added.

“The funny thing about the alliance is that there are many alliances among exile groups and armed opposition groups … but no significant action,” he said.

Fighting in brief
  • October 19: a SSA-S unit ambushed Burmese soldiers from the 519 LIB and 277 LIB, near Wan Mo village, Mae Keng tract, Mong Tone Township, eastern Shan State. The fight lasted for 17 minutes. The Burmese Army lost two men and 10 were injured, the SSA-S website reported.
  • October 31: SSA-S fighters ambushed a unit of the 510 LIB south of Mong Yawn (about three miles, or five kilometres, from the tract), Mong Kung Township. The army lost seven men and seven others were severely injured. SSA-S also seized weapons from the rival troops in a clash lasting 1½ hours.
  • November 1 (next day): SSA-S fighters intercepted a unit of the 292 LIB on its way to assist its comrades. The clash occurred between the Mong Yawn and Nong Wo village in Mong Kung. The fight lasted for 28 minutes. One Burmese soldier was wounded, the SSA-S website reported.
  • November 2: Fighting broke out between SSA-S fighters and 518 LIB near Nong Khan, Maik Hai tract, Mong Nai township, Southern Shan State. The Burmese Army lost two men and one was wounded.

Last Updated ( Friday, 05 November 2010 21:44 )  

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