Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Junta sets deadline for ceasefire groups to transform

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta has told ethnic ceasefire groups they have till September this year to transform their groups, an ethnic Wa rebel group told Mizzima.

A top official of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), one of the largest rebel groups in Burma which has a ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta, said the regime wants them to transform or at least reduce the number of armed men.

“They [junta] set September as the deadline for reforming our army,” the UWSA official, who wished not to be named, said.

The message was conveyed to the group, during a meeting with the junta’s Chief Military Affairs Security (MAS), Maj-Gen Ye Myint on April 28, in Tang Yang town in North eastern Shan state.

The official said the junta wants a reduction in the size of the rebel’s army and to include Burmese soldiers in the group. The regime will also have controlling command of the rebel’s army, the official said.

For a battalion, the junta wants the size reduced to 326 soldiers and to include about 30 soldiers from the Burmese Army. (JEG's: spies?? aha)

The junta’s demand is the latest in a series of efforts that it has been making to control the armed rebel groups. In late April, the junta met several ceasefire groups including the UWSA, Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

The official said, the junta wants to have control over the rebel group’s army and manage them and is willing to take responsibility even by way of payment of salaries for the troops.

The demands were made during a meeting between the Burmese delegates led by Maj-Gen Ye Myint and Wa leaders led by vice Chairman Xiao Minliang at Tang Yang, the official said.

“Maj-Gen Ye Myint told us that we should set age limits for our new recruits at between 18 to 50. Everybody who is over the age of 50 should be retired,” he added.

The UWSA, a group that broke off from the former Communist Party of Burma (CPB), said they have not decided on the junta’s proposals but will soon come up with a decision after consulting and having meetings.

“We have not decided anything yet. Now we are planning to have discussions with all of our soldiers and our people. We need to take their opinion and note their desires,” the official said.

Like the UWSA, the Kachin Independent Organization/Army (KIO/A), said they are also preparing for a public meeting to garner opinion on the junta’s proposals put forward by the Northern Command Commander Maj. Gen. Soe Win, who met the KIO leaders at Myitkyina, Capital of Kachin State, on April 28.

A Major from the KIO, who wished not to be named, told Mizzima, “We will be holding public meetings with our people after May 10.”

The Major said he believes that the people and the KIO members are likely to disagree with the junta’s proposals, when they have the meeting in KIO controlled area of Laiza on the Sino-Burma border.

“If we give into whatever the junta demands, what is the point of being into an armed struggle? It would also make no sense of our over 40 years of resistance,” the Major said.

However, he declined to mention what the KIO as a group might decide.

Similarly, the junta held separate meeting with leaders of the Shan State Army -North (SSA-N), Myanmar National Democratic Allied Army (MNDAA), New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) and National Democratic Allied Army (NDAA).

The junta’s demand that the ceasefire armed groups transform their armies and hand over the management to the junta, is a step below its original plan of disarming the ceasefire armed groups before the planned general election in 2010.

A Sino-Burma border based analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw said, ceasefire groups will now have meetings among themselves, and it is very much unlikely for the majority of them to comply with the junta’s demand.

But those groups that are weaker militarily might as well consider the junta’s demand as it could be viewed as a way out for them.

“I don’t think it will be possible for stronger groups to comply with the demand but some like the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army [DKBA] are likely to comply as they are already been on the side of the junta,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw.

“It is impossible for the ceasefire groups to comply with the junta’s demand. Now all the groups are planning to stand as one and raise just one voice,” he added.

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