Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Armed groups to step up resistance

(DVB)–Burma's armed ethnic groups will increase cooperation with ceasefire groups in an effort to strengthen resistance against government army forces, following a meeting of eight opposition groups.

The alliance of ethnic armed groups, the National Democratic Front (NDF), concluded its Central Executive Committee’s three-day meeting on Sunday.

The eight-strong coalition, which includes the Karen National Union (KNU) and New Mon State Party (NMSP), two of Burma's principle armed opposition groups, discussed the ongoing issue of government pressure to transform ceasefire groups into border patrol forces.

A number of the ceasefire groups, including the NMSP, have resisted the pressure to return to what the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) calls the 'legal fold', which would give them legitimacy as groups but significantly weaken their manpower and influence.

“We wholeheartedly support the decision of our brothers, the ceasefire groups, not to agree with the SPDC’s plan to transform them into border militias,” said Mai Phone Kyaw, general secretary of the NDF.

A statement released by the NDF said that ethnic groups "have a right to operate in their own regions to protect their own people".

Mai Phone Kyaw said the junta is attempting to distract from growing international pressure on it by stepping up confrontation against opposition groups.

The government's latest offensive against the KNU, which began in June, has resulted in nearly 5000 Karen fleeing across the border into Thailand.

The conflict between the Burmese government and the KNU, which has stretched over 60 years, is thought to be one of the world's longest running.

“We discussed in our meeting how to step up our resistance and to prepare for a combat,” Mai Phone Kyaw said.

“We will continue our resistance against the SPDC junta by any means possible until we are granted our rights as the ethnic people of Burma.”

Reporting by Aye Nai

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