The Burmese army is reportedly training civilians in the country’s northern Kachin state for government militias as fears mount over the prospect of war with the Kachin ceasefire army.
Burmese troops are also blocking vital trade routes that feed the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), while last week it confiscated more than 30 explosive devices from civilians working under the KIA.
Now government units are moving within close range of the KIA headquarters in the mountains close to Laiza, on the China-Burma border. One troop deployment has established itself at Dawhpumyang village, only 20 kilometers from Laiza.
Burmese army checkpoints on Laiza’s trade route with China are blocking KIA vehicles from delivering goods across the border, and also restricting goods coming in to the group.
As a result the KIA has reportedly recruited civilians to monitor the flow of vehicles, and locals in Kachin state warned recently that the group was also stepping up military preparations in mountainous areas of the region.
But any expansion of the KIA is being countered by the aggressive recruitment of Kachin-based civilians into proxy militias for the Burmese army. Military training is being given at local football pitches in townships around Myitkyina, the Kachin capital.
A local resident told DVB that different groups of people, each 20 to 30-strong, had been trained in morning and afternoon sessions over the course of 10 days, with uniforms provided at the end.
“There are different people among the trainees, such as retired army personnel, [Union Solidarity and Development Association] members and local civilians, as well as former government workers and former ward officials,” he said.
The training includes basic military exercises and the assembling and dissembling of firearms, the resident added. He also speculated that such unprecedented training, largely among the Burman, and not Kachin, population of Myitkyina, could be a sign that the Burmese army was preparing for conflict with the KIA.
The KIA and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), have said they would consider an alternative to demands by the ruling junta to transform into a Border Guard Force (BGF) prior to elections this year.
The group met with senior Burmese army commander Soe Win last week where they discussed the possible conversion of the KIO into a formal political party, whilst resisting BGF proposals that would see it subordinated to the Burmese government.