DKBA moves towards border guard change

Oct 14, 2009 (DVB), The pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army is to present the Burmese government with a list of battalions that will be transformed into border guard forces, officials from the group said.

The list is due to be sent tomorrow to the government's military affairs security chief, Lieutenant General Ye Myint.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been urging ceasefire groups in Burma to transform into border guard forces prior to the 2010 elections, although many have so far refused.

A Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) official said that those appointed to the border guard group would be given military and administration training in December in Moulmein, the capital of Burma's eastern Mon state.

"There would be 360 personnel, including 30 Burmese army members, in each new battalion," said the DKBA official. "We don't know how many battalions would be formed."

He said that DKBA leaders are now holding a five-day conference, due to end tomorrow, in Karen state.

The government has reportedly told the DKBA that new border guard forces would be under the direct control of the commander-in-chief of the country's Defence Services.

The highest position in the group would be major's rank, while the age range for personnel in each battalion will be 18 to 50 years old.

Another DKBA official said Ye Myint came to the DKBA headquarters at the end of September and told the group to dismantle its Tactical Operation Command unit.

An official at the DKBA's 999th Battalion said some members within the group were disappointed with the age and rank limits for the border militia group.

A number of battalions accommodate people who are over 50 years old, many of whom rank above major, who would face demotion once the transformation has taken place.

Resistance to the government's border guard plan has come from the majority of Burma's ceasefire groups, who claim that the move would erode their autonomy and significantly weaken their clout.

The government is attempting to bring more armed groups back into the "legal fold", and thus permit them to create political parties, prior elections next. Ostensibly the move would bring more support for the government.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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