Tuesday, June 2, 2009

DKBA Starts Border Guard Recruitment

The Irrawaddy News

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a ceasefire group, has begun forcibly recruiting people to serve as border guards in compliance with orders from Burma’s ruling junta, according to Karen sources.

A Karen source close to the DKBA said that the ceasefire group recently started a three-month recruitment drive in villages in its territory. New recruits will then receive training from the Burmese army, said the source.

DKBA troops march in a parade. (Photo: Shah Paung/ The Irrawaddy)

Saw Steve, a head of the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, a Karen relief group, said the DKBA started rounding up villagers to serve as border guards in areas under its control, including Thaton and Pa-an districts, last month.

Some villagers were threatened with arrest by DKBA soldiers if they refused to join the new border security force, he said.

In January, the DKBA was told by the Burmese regime in Naypyidaw to provide border guards under the terms of Burma’s new constitution.

According to Karen sources in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, opposite Myawaddy in Burma’s Karen State, some people in villages under DKBA control have begun fleeing to Thailand to escape forced recruitment.

“Some villagers don’t want to serve as soldiers, so they are running to Thailand,” said the source close to the DKBA.

The DKBA, which signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military regime after splitting from the Karen National Union in 1995, is one of many groups that are facing increasing pressure from the Burmese army to transform themselves into border security forces.

Under the new scheme, the border guards would be commanded by officers of the Burmese army. The move is seen as a way to effectively disarm the ceasefire groups.

So far, however, few of the key ceasefire groups have shown any interest in falling in line with the junta’s plan.

Last month, two major ceasefire groups—the New Mon State Party and the United Wa State Army—rejected instructions from the junta to transform their soldiers into border guards under the joint-command of the Burmese army.

Another strong ethnic ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organization, has not yet made a decision regarding the Burmese regime’s plan. The organization said that it would carefully consider the junta’s proposal.

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