Junta-backed militia will 'make Karen state peaceful'

June 16, 2009 (DVB), A pro-junta militia in Burma believed to be responsible for the burning of Karen villages and forced recruitment of civilians as troops has said it intends to make Karen state "peaceful".

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), who broke from the opposition Karen National Union (KNU) in 1994 and allied itself with the Burmese government, is involved in the current offensive against the KNU that has forced around 4000 civilians to flee to Thailand.

The clash began on 2 June. Yesterday two KNU battalion outposts were captured by the Burmese army, adding to the one captured on Sunday.

The KNU have said that the offensive is motivated by the looming 2010 elections, with the Burmese army keen to save face amidst mounting international criticism by proving it can effectively carry out difficult wet-season offensives.

"Our view is, they are carrying out offensives against the KNU for the 2010 election and trying to make the whole area the DKBA’s border," said KNU secretary-general Naw Zipora Sein.

But a commander from the DKBA's Battalion 999, Colonel San Pyone, said the offensive is an effort to pressure the KNU to hold peace talks again.

"It is not for the gain or loss. It is just a kind of pressure [to make the KNU] reinitiate peace [talks], and an effort to create a situation so as we can live together again," he said.

"And this kind of army [KNU] should not exist, I think. They will not exist in the future -we will try to make sure that they will not exist.

"We will make Karen state really peaceful."

In February the DKBA Battalion 999 reportedly raided and burned down a Karen village near the Burma-Thai border. Villagers said they were forced to flee into the jungle to escape the attack.

Some of the 4000 or so Karen who have arrived in Thailand in recent weeks have said they fled to escape forced recruitment by the DKBA into the Burmese army.

A spokesperson from the Karen Human Rights Group said that villagers near to the fighting were being forced to porter military supplies to the frontline, as well as acting as minesweepers.

"They have to go in front of the soldiers because for the attack, if you go in front of the soldiers then probably there are landmines and they will step on the landmines first," said September Paw.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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