Troops from four Border Guard Force units in a Karen state region have mutinied as Burmese army battalions are deployed in preparation for a retaliatory offensive.
The majority of the defectors have joined the ranks of the opposition Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), according to DKBA Colonel Kyaw Thet, while some have returned to their original Burmese army brigades.
Kyaw Thet said that the DKBA, which steadfastly refused to transform into a government-controlled border force, has been bolstered by as many as 1000 soldiers since the series of defections on 12 June.
Two Light Infantry Divisions (LID) of the Burmese army are now mobilising in the Myainggyingu region of Karen state where the renegade units are based. The Border Guard Force (BGF) 1012 was the first to break rank last month when around 500 soldiers joined the DKBA.
Reports are circulating that two more LIDs have been sent but are yet to reach the Myainggyingu, which lies around 35km from the Thai border. Each LID is made up of 10 Light Infantry Brigades which are specially trained in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare.
Kyaw Thet, who belongs to the DKBA unit led by Brigadier General Na Kham Mwe, said that the “situation was getting worse” in Myainggyingu as more Burmese army units arrive. He added that the DKBA had “special plans” for a counterattack, and would be joined by the KNLA.
Last year the government threatened force against ethnic armies that refused to transform into BGFs. Only a handful agreed, while decades-old ceasefires between the government and some of Burma’s most prominent insurgent groups have collapsed.
The recent manoeuvres by government troops mark a further escalation of hostilities in Burma’s border regions, where several groups have refused to transform into government-controlled BGFs. Fighting has raged in Kachin state over the past fortnight, while Burmese troops have also launched assaults on the Shan State Army.