Two additional military command zones are being created for the Burmese army in regions bordering China as tensions with ethnic armies grow.
Several major rebel groups have refused demands by the Burmese junta to transform into Border Guard Forces, a move that would see their lower-ranking troops assimilated into the Burmese army.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a military analyst on the China-Burma border, said that two more Regional Military Commands (RMCs) may be added later in the year, on top of the two already set in place.
One has been designated for Tanaing in Kachin state, which is home to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Another will be formed in Wanhseng in the south of Shan state, close to territory controlled by the Shan State Army.
“Traditionally [the Burmese Army] never kept any troops in Wanhseng,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw. “I think the intention might be to keep full control over both Shan State Armies [South and North] as well as for security for the gas pipeline running between Mandalay and Lashio.”
The Burmese government will be keen to bolster its military presence along the planned Shwe oil and gas pipeline route, which begins in Kyaukphyu on the western coast and ends in southern China. The project will prove lucrative to the junta, and is likely to tighten relations with its northern neighbour.
China has warned the junta that it must maintain stability along the shared border following fears that fighting could erupt over the refusal by ethnic armies to transform into Border Guard Forces.