Burmese troops are being sent en masse to the country’s northern Kachin state as tensions rise with an ethnic Kachin army, one of a number in Burma to have rejected approaches by the junta.
Locals in Kachin state’s Moe Hnyin and Hpakant towns, close to Kachin Independence Army (KIA) outposts, said that residents were being forced to build accommodation for extra troops.
“Originally, there was only a squadron – just around four or five soldiers – deployed in [an outpost in] Nyaungbin village in Moe Hnyin township,” said one man. “But now they are deploying a company there so accommodation is needed for about 40 or 50 soldiers.”
The KIA on 1 September announced it would not transform into a Border Guard Force (BGF), a proposal put to all of Burma’s ceasefire groups by junta, which attempting to assimilate ethnic armies into its own. The 1 September was deadline day, but many have refused.
The local from Moe Hnyin said that Burmese troops were “asking resident to ‘volunteer’ in building fences and living quarters”. He said that similar reports were coming from Hpakant.
Another man in Nyaungbin village said: “[Burmese army troops] assigned Kachins to work on Sundays while Shan and Burmans were assigned to work on other days. They are using forced labour on the Kachins to stop make them unable to go to church.”
Official government statistics show that 36.4 percent of Kachin are Christian; the majority is Buddhist, as are the Burmese junta and its near 500,000-strong army.
Several clashes related to the Border Guard Force issue have also flared in Burma’s volatile Shan state, where the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) has rejected the proposal. One Burmese troop died on Monday after a firefight with SSA-N soldiers close to Mong Yai, while another clash on Tuesday last week in Hsipaw township left several injured.
And yesterday evening a bomb exploded in front of Royal Night Club in Muse, a town close to the China-Burma border in northern Shan state. Local sources say the club is run by the pro-junta Panhsay militia. No one was injured, and the culprit remains unknown.