Border guard switch claims first victim

An official of a newly-formed Kokang ceasefire group has been assassinated outside of his house in Burma’s northeastern Shan state.

Lin Xiang, who worked as a communicator between the Burmese army and the Kokang Border Guard Force (BGF) Unit 1006, was shot by unknown gunmen on Thursday last week in Lashio, Shan state’s principal town.

His unit is led by Bai Suoqian, who usurped Peng Jiasheng as the head of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) after a violent conflict in August last year.

Peng Jiasheng had opposed the Burmese government’s attempts to transform the MNDAA into a border guard force, something which has fuelled tension between the Burmese army and the majority of the country’s ethnic ceasefire groups.

Lin Xiang’s assassination mirrors a similar killing in January of Min Ein, secretary of the Mongla ethnic group, National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), also in Shan state.

Today is the deadline for Burma’s 18 ceasefire groups to transform into border guard forces. This will bring them under the direct control of the government prior to elections this year, with Burmese army commanders having control of BGF forces at battalion level.

The majority have however refused, leading to concerns that the Burmese army will launched a series of offensives in an attempt to weaken those who don’t comply. It was the refusal by the MNDAA that sparked the fighting last year.

Burma’s largest ceasefire group, the 30,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA), met with Burma’s intelligence chief Ye Myint last week where it again rejected the border guard proposal.

The UWSA could now be declared ‘unlawful’ by the Burmese government. Ye Myint reportedly warned the group that if it continued to refuse, it would face military action.

Locals in Kachin state warned last week that the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which has also refused the border guard proposal, is stepping up military preparations on mountains and hills in their region.

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