Kachin group sends troops for border guard training

Oct 20, 2009 (DVB), A Kachin ceasefire group in northern Burma has sent a number of cadets to train with the Burmese army in lieu of becoming a border guard force, a former spokesperson said.

The National Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK) in June accepted a government proposal to transform into a border militia, one of the first ceasefire groups to do so.

A former NDAK spokesperson, Nguyen Tawnghawng, said that 10 cadets had been sent to the Kachin state capital, Myitkyina, to receive officer training at a Burmese army base.

He said the NDAK is preparing to set up three battalions for its border guard force and aims to initiate the transformation before the end of this year.

Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been urging ceasefire groups to transform in border guards and re-enter what it calls the "legal fold" prior to the elections next year.

The government hopes this will consolidate support for it from the country's numerous ceasefire groups, many of whom hold tenuous truces with the regime.

Many of the larger groups have however rejected the proposal, claiming the transformation will significantly weaken them and bring them under direct control of the government.

Burma's biggest ceasefire group, the 30,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA) yesterday reiterated its stance that it would only negotiate with a civilian government elected next year.

A UWSA official told DVB that members of the group met with government representatives in the Pangshang region of Shan state last week.

"It's been about five or six days since we told [the government] that, but no response has been made so far," he said, adding that government troops in the Wa region had been "restless" since the group first made clear its stance.

The region was the scene of fierce fighting earlier this year between Burmese troops and an ethnic Kokang armed group, rumoured to have been supported by the UWSA.

Reporting by Aye Nai and Htet Aung Kyaw

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