Troops of the ethnic New Mon State Party (NMSP) army have been ordered by superiors to shoot any Burmese solider that enters its territory.
The group, whose ceasefire agreement with the Burmese junta in 1995 is looking increasingly tenuous, earlier this month refused an approach by the generals to transform into a Border Guard Force, a move that would see them come under the control of Naypyidaw.
The order to shoot on sight was passed at a recent Central Committee meeting, a senior NMSP official told DVB.
“We are ready to shoot [the Burmese army] when they enter our territory as there wouldn’t be time to wait for an order from [the leadership],” he said. “Right now we are in a critical situation and it is important not to be caught off guard. [The army] said they will declare us an unlawful association and we cannot afford to trust them.”
The threat of being declared an illegal group, and thus ever vulnerable to attacks from the junta, was issued long before the NMSP’s formal announcement on 1 September that it would not become a Border Guard Force. The NMSP joins a number of Burmese ethnic ceasefire groups who have refused and been threatened with force, but the official said that no fighting had yet occurred.
Clashes have however broken out between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Burmese troops, according the KNLA Brigade 6 commander Saw Htae Nay. The KNLA’s conflict with the Burmese junta has stretched over six decades, and is thought to be one of the world’s longest-running.
Troops engaged with one another in Brigade 6 territory in Burma’s eastern Karen state, close to the boundary with Mon state. Saw Htae Nay speculated that more fights will soon follow soon as the Burmese government had begun sending reinforcements to troops in the area.
DVB has also learnt that seven armed ethnic groups, including the Kachin Independence Organisation and the Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the KNLA, are holding talks on military issues at an undisclosed location along the Thailand-Burma border.