|By LAWI WENG||Monday, September 28, 2009|
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) held a meeting at its headquarter in Laiza on Monday to prepare for talks with the junta’s northern regional commander Major-Gen Soe Win, according to sources on the Sino-Burma border.
The junta expects the KIO to respond to its border guard proposal by October.
Awng Wa, a Kachin youth leader who lives on the border, told The Irrawaddy that KIO leaders will travel to Myitkyina on Tuesday to meet Soe Win.
The KIO was told by Lt-Gen Ye Myint, the Burmese Military Affairs Security Chief, to provide an answer in October to the border guard force issue when they met in Myitkyina on Sept. 9.
KIO leaders have already rejected the junta’s demand to transform their troops into a border guard force under the command of government military officers.
Instead, Kachin leaders have proposed a Kachin Regional Guard Force in place of a government-backed border guard force. They have met junta officials at least seven times since April.
Meanwhile, the junta has mobilized more troops in Kachin State as the deadline nears and tension has increased.
Awng Wa said the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has placed its troops on alert, and soldiers completed military training courses this month, he said.
Only three ethnic ceasefire groups have agreed so far to transform their troops into border guards (the Pa-ao National Organization, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the Karenni Nationalities Peoples’ Liberation Front).
Fourteen ethnic armed groups have refused to become a border guard force including the largest ethnic armed force, the United Wa State Army in northeastern Shan State.
Mai Aik Phone, who is close to the Wa, said that the UWSA has sent more troops to Panlong, south of Laogai Township, where an estimated 10 Burmese battalions were recently deployed.
Many residents in Kachin and Shan states fear war will break out between the junta’s troops and ethnic ceasefire groups if the junta continues to demand that they become a border guard force.
According to the Kachin News Group based in Chiang Mai, Chinese authorities have set up three refugee camps in northwestern Yunnan Province, to shelter refugees if there is fighting in Shan and Kachin states. More than 30,000 Kokang refugees fled to China after the recent clashes between junta and Kokang troops.
The Burmese authorities meanwhile have improved roads in Shan and Kachin states, in preparation for moving troops, say observers.
China has warned its citizens on the China-Burma border to return to China because the area may be subject to imminent hostilities. There have been reports that Burmese authorities in Laogai have forced Chinese citizens to leave the area.
Meanwhile, China has asked Burmese authorities to respect the right of Chinese citizens who live in the Burma border area and has asked Burmese authorities to investigate and punish who abused or stole property from Chinese citizen in Laogai during the fighting between junta and Kakang troops.
An estimated 80 percent of Laogai market is owned by Chinese citizens, according to border sources. Many Chinese-owned properties were reportedly looted by junta troops during the August attack.
Another ethnic armed ceasefire group, Thai-Burmese border-based the New Mon State Party (NMSP), is also under pressure to transform into a border guard force. Junta’s troops are reportedly setting up a new artillery base in the border town of Three Pagodas Pass.
Burmese regime also asks to set up a check point in the NMSP-controlled area near Halockinee refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border.
According to the NMSP, if the junta sets up any military bases, the ceasefire agreement of 1995 will be broken.