The Burmese government’s often aggressive attempts to turn ceasefire groups into Border Guard Forces (BGF) has claimed its first victim.
Saw Jack was killed by his seniors in a corn field in eastern Burma’s Karen state on Tuesday morning, shortly after he escaped the newly formed BGF 2202 based near Myawaddy, a town on the border with western Thailand.
Reports claim he was attempting to defect to territory controlled by Na Kham Mwe, a renegade Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) commander who has refused to make the transformation into a Border Guard Force.
The 31-year-old had been part of the DKBA faction that agreed to the junta’s proposal to transform and come under the control of the Burmese army. Numbers of ethnic ceasefire groups have however refused, drawing threats of war from the ruling generals.
Pressure had been heaped on various groups, including the 30,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the New Mon State Army (NMSP), prior to the 1 September deadline day, with the latter two officially announcing their refusal to transform.
The KIA, led by its political wing the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), had been told by military officials to make the change as a pretext for it contesting elections slated for 7 November, but yesterday it said that its goal of a federal Burma remained its “unwavering stance”.
Burma’s intelligence chief Ye Myint had met with the Wa army last month to pressure it to transform, after which the junta would send election officials escorted by Burmese troops to the Wa region of Shan state in lieu of the polls – the Wa army, which controls sizeable areas of Shan state, has agreed to hold voting in its territory.
A UWSA member told DVB however that it was “meaningless” to send troops along with election officials, given that there had been no previous problems with government or UN staff entering the region.
The NMSP has also formally refused to transform, and has said that it is preparing for a possible offensive by the Burmese army.