Border guard pressure could 'threaten peace'

Aug 7, 2009 (DVB), Armed conflict will reignite in Burma if the ruling junta continues to force ceasefire groups to transform into border guards, a key armed ethnic group warned yesterday.

The New Mon State Party (NMSP) said in a statement that it is keen to maintain its 14-year-old ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government, but will not accept the dissolving of its armed units before self-determination is achieved.

Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has embarked on a campaign to transform ceasefire groups into border guards in an attempt to reduce their numbers and return them to 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.

"Our Central Executive Committee has decided not to go along with the plan to transform us into a border militia as it promises no insurance for the people of Mon state and to ourselves," said the NMSP's Nai Hong Sa Boung Khine.

He added however that pressure from the junta had eased recently regarding border guard transformation.

The NMSP also said in its statement that existing peace in the country will be seriously threatened should the authorities resort to coercion to achieve their objective.

The public declaration by the NMSP followed a similar announcement by another influential ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

The KIO said it agreed in principle with the border guard proposal but suggested that step should be taken only when the nation is at peace and after a popularly elected democratic government is in place.

"No one likes the idea about the border guard force," said James Lum Dau from the KIO. "When the majority is opposing it and only one party likes the idea, it is not practical to be pushing for a result."

Reports surfaced last month of a campaign by the junta to use religious leaders and influential businessmen to convince ceasefire groups in Kachin state to become border guards.

According to a resident of Kachin state's capital Myitkyina, government officials had been meeting with church pastors and business owners to help put pressure on the KIO.

Reporting by Aye Naing

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