Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Residents scared, rumors abound in wake of impending conflict

IMNA, Rai Maraoh

As news has spread of the advancing Burmese army, fear and rumors run rife amongst area civilians and traders, as a major clash with the largest Karen resistance group looms.

The most recent round of fighting between the Burmese State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) forces and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) took place around 8 p.m. on July 8th on a temporary camp near Tae Tone Lone. The camp is 12 kilometers outside Three Pagoda Pass, between Makate and Three Pagoda Pass (TPP).

After the recent fall of the Karen National Union’s (KNU) KNLA base, brigade 7, according to KNU sources, the SPDC and DKBA forces are advancing towards brigade 6 stronghold. Many residents and traders have reacted with fear to the increasing tension and militarization in the region, which has caused the spread of rumors among area residents, such as a rumor that close to 1,000 SPDC troops are advancing into the area. Concerns about safety in the face of the increasing military presence has in particular paralyzed trade along the Zami river, as traders are hesitant to approach the numerous checkpoints that along the river held by assorted armed groups, and the repercussions of being caught in the midst of the ongoing conflict.

“After the DKBA and the KNU were fighting in Tae Tone Lone camp, the boat owners couldn’t bring themselves to run their boats, so we also can’t trade,” said a trader from Three Pagoda Pass. “We’re afraid of the conflict between the DKBA and KNU, that’s why we’ve now stopped trading.”

On July 8th the SPDC combined forces with the DKBA to fight the KNLA at a brigade 6 administered checkpoint in the area near Tae Tone Lone camp, while on July 11th there were reports of DKBA forces opening fire on KNLA troops.

“Now we hear about the Burmese troops marching to (TPP) area, but they haven’t arrive yet,” said a source close to the Burmese authorites. “They will arrest residents to use as forced porters.”

On July 11th a rumor spread that SPDC forces had arrested 15-30 residents of Toung Wine area, outside of TPP, and needed about 800 more porters to successfully carry out their coming assault of the brigade no 6 base.

After the dual bomb blast in Three Pagoda Pass and the ongoing conflict between DKBA and KNU, SPDC troops from IB No. 32 based in TPP, now enforce a 10 pm curfew on the crossing into Makate forest. After 10 pm soldiers from IB No. 32 will not allow people to go outside town, according to a resident from Three Pagoda Pass.

“During in this day [Monday the 13th] about 7 soldiers from IB No. 32 deserted to join the KNLA, including one captain,” said a source in TPP. “Some people said that this is an unusual situation, and that it’s a Burmese army strategy to trick and blind side the KNU.”

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