Thursday, July 9, 2009

Violence between Karen armies continues in Three Pagodas Pass

Two soldiers were killed in Three Pagodas Pass Township last night—both members of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).

The fighting between the DKBA and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) took place around 8 p.m. in the temporary Tae Tone Lone camp, 12 kilometers outside Three Pagodas Pass, between Makate and Three Pagoda Pass.

Aye One and Majar Soe Mone commanded 30-men from the DKBA against 10 from the KNLA.

The KNLA, the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) reported no deaths during the brief 10-minute clash, a source close to the KNU told IMNA: “none of the KNLA soldiers died in the fighting because they didn’t sleep in the battalion base. They moved to another place last night [fearful of an imminent attack].“

After the fighting ended, the DKBA arrested two villagers and turned them into forced porters for the Burmese army-backed military group, said a 52-year-old villager. Now local villagers cannot go into the forest to tend to their farms and plantations for fear of the DKBA and future corvee labor.

The practice of forced labor and portering remains a fundamental and widely-exercised human rights abuse, as part of the Burmese army’s Pya Ley Pya, or “Four Cuts” strategy.

IMNA received reports from inside Karen State that the KNLA is preparing to launch a counter-offensive with the combined forces of Brigade 6’s Battalions 16 and 17, from Thanbyuzayat and Three Pagodas Pass, respectively.

“Now we are ready to fight with the SPDC [the State Peace and Development Council] and the DKBA,” a KNU member said under the condition of anonymity. “Because of these two groups we lost our Brigade Number 7 Base [captured after recent conflicts in the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border region].”

The KNU has recently lost bases in Karen State, Myawaddy, Kawkare and Kyainnseikyi to the SPDC and DKBA forces, which are ratcheting up their offensives in many areas of Eastern Burma in anticipation of the upcoming 2010 elections.

The military junta hopes to legitimize their government through the elections and has aggressively worked to transform ethnic cease-fire groups into Border Guard Forces, which could ostensibly be used to expand military control at a timely moment.

The DKBA broke off from the KNU, the main Karen political party, in 1995.

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