DKBA increasing troop presence Makate, frightening area businesses and residents

October 27, 2008

HURFOM:Soldiers from Democratic Karen Buddhist Army Battalion (DKBA) No. 999 have been arriving in Makate, scaring residents and business in the area. About 20 soldiers arrived in Makate on October 19th, with another 280 slated to arrive soon, say local sources. Battalion No. 999 is lead by commander Kyaw Kyaw and second colonel Than Nyein.

The influx of troops, ahead of widely a expected offensive against territory controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU), is frightening residents, loggers and miners in the area.

A businessman in Three Pagodas Town, ten kilometers away on the Thai-Burma border, told HURFOM, “I know that people in this area will have problems because the DKBA will act on their plan. The DKBA wants to control the KNU base and other ethnic armed group bases near Three Pagodas. After I heard that news it makes me think not to do business in this situation. I think civil war among the ethnic armies will occur again. Now the DKBA wants to build a new pagoda. In the places the DKBA already controlled, they have built five pagodas already. They build the pagodas so they can say the pagodas belong to them and argue that the area around the pagoda already belonged to them.”

Other residents of Three Pagodas Pass agreed, said the HURFOM field reporter, who summed up their sentiments: “If the DKBA tries to take over Three Pagodas and take away the KNU’s income from logging and mining and other taxes, Three Pagodas will be a war zone again.”

According to research done by a HURFOM field reporter, a Thai company operating an antimony mine near Three Pagodas Pass will withdraw their business because they fear Battalion No. 999.

The closing of the mine will leave thirty to thirty five people unemployed. “Before the company mined the antimony and stored it in Three Pagoda Town. People got jobs, but now the Thai company wants to stop digging and workers have to find another job,” the HURFOM field reporter said. The same Thai company operates a second mine south of Three Pagodas Pass, just across the border from the Thai town of Thong Papum.

The Irrawaddy and Karen Human Rights Group report that the DKBA is likely to launch a major assault on KNU territories in Dooplaya District, southern Karen State. The DKBA, which split from the KNU in 1994, is fighting with assistance from the Burmese military government.

Daily skirmishes between the Karen groups have been reported. The DKBA has also been accused of making assaults on villages, and conscripting villagers into working as forced porters and human minesweepers.

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