Monday, July 6, 2009

DKBA-Tatmadaw Look to Brigade 5

The Irrawaddy News

The combined forces of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Burmese army have turned their attention northward as they look to capitalize on their recent successful campaign of capturing the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA’s) Brigade 7 by launching a military assault on the KNLA’s Brigade 5 in northern Karen State, according to Karen sources.

The DKBA have mobilized battalions 333 and 555, Karen relief groups reported.

Poe Shen, a field director for the Karen Human Rights Group, said, “DKBA troops have now become more active in KNLA Brigade 5 areas. They are also restricting the local villagers’ movements.”

A joint force of Burmese army and DKBA troops seized the headquarters of the KNLA Brigade 7 in Pa-an district on June 21.

Meanwhile, about 20 clashes broke out in KNLA Brigade 5 areas throughout June and an estimated 16 Burmese soldiers were killed, including one commander, while 39 were injured, according to a Karen news organization, Kwe Ka Lu.

Observers and Karen sources along the border said the joint force intends to clean up the KNLA-controlled areas along the border before the Burmese regime holds its planned general election in 2010.

Sources said that since the fall of KNLA Brigade 7, the DKBA-Tatmadaw (Burmese army) joint force will turn its attention to the KNLA’s southernmost outpost, Brigade 6, before turning its attention back to the conflict with the KNLA in Brigade 5, which will most likely resume in September or October.

As per its agreement with the Burmese regime to take over as a border guard force, the DKBA has been assigned the role of cleaning up the KNLA areas and enforcing its troop strength along the Thai-Burmese border.

In order to complete its assignment as a border guard force with each battalion comprising 326 soldiers, the DKBA is aggressively recruiting new members at present, sources said.

“Because of its battalion number responsibilities, the DKBA is now recruiting villagers to serve as soldiers,” said a DKBA source. Military training by Burmese commanders will also follow the recruitment, he added.

He said that the DKBA and the Burmese regime were aiming to operate border trade from KNLA Brigade 6 in the south up to Brigade 5 in the north, after the battle is won.

Both sides confirmed that DKBA soldiers are presently engaged in clearing landmines in the areas seized during its offensive on KNLA brigades 7 and 6.

According to the Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the KNLA, on June 18 a clash broke out between KNLA soldiers and the Burmese army in Brigade 6. The KNU said nine Burmese soldiers were killed or injured while one KNLA soldier was killed in the skirmish.

A force of Burmese army soldiers and DKBA troops has been launching military offensives in KNLA Brigade 7 sine June 2, resulting in about 4,000 Karen villagers fleeing to Thailand for safety.

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