Indian rebels admit to Burmese hideouts

Dec 4, 2009 (DVB), Members of the banned Indian separatist group, the United Liberation Front of Assam, have alleged that they hold strategic bases across the border in Burmese territory.

The admission came when two United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) rebels were captured in North East India. According to the Indian newspaper, The Telegraph, they said that more than one hundred militants were living in camps inside Burma.

A journalist in the region, Nava Thakuria, told DVB that the UFLA's 28th Battalion had been "taking shelter in northern Burma, for many years".

"I know many former ULFA boys in Guwahati [capital of Assam] who were there in Burma for training and other activities," he said.

While it is not alleged that the Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) is supporting the UFLA, concern surrounds inaction after India had offered considerable aid and combined training operations in the region.

Concern over the border was also heightened after a recent UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report suggested that Burmese drugs and traffickers were finding their way to fresh roots on Burma's western border.

This would spell worry for Delhi given the grave repercussions that Burma's burgeoning narcotics industry has had on Thailand.

"Why the SPDC is not taking harsh action against the ULFA rebels is understandable as they do not have the capacity and power to do so," said Thakuria. "Moreover, they are playing with the government of India for legitimate support in the time of crisis."

Meanwhile, both Bangladesh and Bhutan, which share borders with North East India, have made considerable efforts to combat the ULFA, a group that has been behind bombings and other outbreaks of violence in recent years.

This stark contrast to Burma's inaction has been alleged by observers to reflect India's diminishing strategic importance to Burma in the face of growing preference for Chinese support.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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