Shan army 'should prepare for fighting'

Feb 10, 2010 (DVB), A senior Burmese junta security chief has reportedly warned a Shan-based ethnic army to expect conflict unless it transforms into a Border Guard Force and allies itself with the government.

The deadline for ceasefire groups to transform into Border Guard Force (BGF) has been inked for the end of February.

Lieutenant General Ye Myint met with the chairman of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), Lwe Mong, on 6 February to make another pitch for the transformation, according to China-Burma border-based military analyst, Aung Kyaw Zaw.

He told DVB that the meeting "didn't go well, Ye Myint gave the impression that the group should make their decision clear within two months or otherwise there will be fighting."

The SSA-N reportedly told Ye Myint that it would stick to its ceasefire agreement [made with the Burmese army] that the group will only discuss political issues with the next [elected] government, and thus will not transform.

Only a handful of Burma's 18 ceasefire groups have accepted the proposal, which will see them come under direct control of Naypyidaw. The ruling junta has framed it as a way for ethnic armies to return to what it calls "the legal fold", whilst ostensibly cementing rather fragile ceasefire agreements.

The initiative has however caused heavy tension between the Burmese army and ceasefire groups, many of which hold only tenuous truces with the junta. Resistance to the transformation led to heavy fighting last year between Burmese troops and a Shan-based Kokang army.

It emerged last month that the 30,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA), Burma's largest ceasefire group also based in Shan state, had reportedly been training thousands of civilians in lieu of a government offensive following its resistance to the transformation.

The UWSA had however suggested in December last year that it could reach a compromise over the BGF by installing two government officials within its senior rank, although little appears to have come of this.

Reporting by DVB

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