Thursday, July 30, 2009

Religious leaders to pressure Burma ethnic groups

(DVB)–The Burmese government is using influential religious leaders and businessmen to convince ethnic ceasefire groups to transform themselves into border guards, as well as issuing direct threats to the groups.

A resident of Kachin state’s capital Myitkyina, where the ceasefire group Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) are active, said that a senior army official met yesterday with influential state figures to discuss transformation of the KIO into border troops.

“The regional commander met with pastors and business owners at the church in Aung Nan ward this morning and told them to help them pressure the KIO,” said the resident.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has embarked on a campaign to transform ceasefire groups into border patrol guards, a move which would bring them into what the government call the “legal fold”.

Ceasefire groups have said however that agreeing to the proposals would weaken the groups and effectively make them subordinated wings of the Burmese army.

The Myitkyina resident said that threats would be issued to the Kachin group if they failed to comply with the proposals.

“A religious leader who attended the meeting told me that the regional commander had hinted that [the military] would commence war against the group if they refuse the plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources in Shan state said the government is also putting similar pressure on ceasefire group, Shan State Special Region 4 (SSR-4), in eastern Shan state’s Mongla.

A former official of the ceasefire group, led by Sai Leun, said the SPDC had been spreading news that the army will enter Mongla on 8 August and attack the group if they don’t accept the border guard plan.

“[The army] said we would be in no position to fight them back as we have only 4000 or 5000 troops when they have 400,000,” said the official, adding that “we have already prepared ourselves for war.

Reporting by ATK and Nan Kham Kaew

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