24 June 2011

Border wars risk turning back the clock 20 years

By Brian McCartan

FIERCE fighting in Kachin state adds to speculation that widespread civil war may not be far off in Burma. Three separate insurgencies and the potential for more to break out threaten the country’s internal and border security. Also at risk are the small gains in economic and social development in the country’s border regions that have been made since the beginning of the ceasefires two decades ago.

The spiral toward civil war began on election day on 7 November last year when troops from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) revolted against joining the government’s Border Guard Force (BGF) plan. After briefly seizing two border towns, the group allied itself with the still insurgent Karen National Union (KNU) from which it split in 1994.

Government pressure against the 1st Brigade of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) resulted in skirmishes that progressed to an army offensive in early March. Opposed to joining the BGF, the 1st Brigade resumed guerrilla warfare and spread its operations from its central Shan state base area into northern Shan state. By 21 May it had joined forces with the insurgent Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) along the border with Thailand to become the Shan State Army (SSA).

The largest fighting to date began on 9 June when army moves into territory of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were resisted with force. Much of the hostilities are centered around the sites of two hydropower dams being built by the China Datang Corporation on the Taping River, leading some analysts to speculate the army’s aims are to secure the dam sites, perhaps with tacit Chinese approval. However limited the army’s aims may or may not be, KIA units to the west and south of the fighting have taken steps to prevent army reinforcements and resupply, moves that threaten to spread the conflict to other areas. Read full story at Democratic voice of Burma

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