Kachin group becomes first guard force

Nov 11, 2009 (DVB), A Kachin ceasefire group has become Burma's first official border guard force following concerted pressure by the Burmese junta to bring armed groups into the 'legal fold'.

Last week the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) marked its transformation with a celebration at its headquarters in Kachin state's Pan Wah town, in northern Burma.

It is the first group to succumb to a sometimes aggressive campaign by the Burmese government to transform the country's multiple ceasefire armies into border guard forces prior to the 2010 elections.

The government holds somewhat tenuous truces with the majority of Burma's armed ethnic groups. It hopes that the border guard agreement, which will bring the groups further under control of the country's rulers, will bolster it in time for elections next year.

A former NDA-K member told DVB that the new force consists of three battalions, each containing around 300 people.

"The group has been organising [the transformation] for two months but they were having a difficulty gathering people," he said, adding that lot of low-rank members have left the group, while others have gone into hiding.

It is rumoured that a senior commander in the junta's Special Operations unit is to visit Pan Wah next week.

Meanwhile, a Burmese military analyst based on the Burma's border with China, Aung Kyaw Zaw, said that a Kokang group which was engaged in heavy fighting with government troops in August is also preparing to transform.

Since the fighting, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) has come under the command of the pro-junta leader, Bai Suoqian.

"They are about to go official. Their [militia] group is about 300 strong, including 190 troops and 15 officials," said Aung Kyaw Zaw.

He said that the leader of one battalion in the groups, Yan Shaoquin Tan, is a former Burmese Communist Party member.

The BCP is Burma's oldest political party, and since being forced underground by government has worked clandestinely with various insurgent groups along the China-Burma border.

The Burmese army has stepped up its presence in the Kokang region in Burma's northeastern Shan state since the fighting.

According to Aung Kyaw Zaw, however, around 10 of the 28 army battalions that arrived there in August have since been withdrawn.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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