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Security concerns rise after Three Pagodas Pass border siege

Residents, who returned home after a three-day siege on the remote Three Pagodas Pass border town, live in fear of fresh conflict between the Burmese Army and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA)...

Three Pagodas Pass – Residents, who returned home after a three-day siege on the remote Three Pagodas Pass border town, live in fear of fresh conflict between the Burmese Army and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).

Three-Pagodas-Pass-Border“Some villagers are still in Thailand and I am preparing to flee there as well,” said Ms. Mi Dut from the Three Pagodas Pass border town.

On November 8, a day after the first general election in 20 years in Burma, the DKBA launched an offensive against the Burmese soldiers stationed in the town and burnt down government buildings including the Special Branch (SB), Agriculture and Forestry Department buildings. The villagers started to return to the area on November 12 when the DKBA retreated three days later.

Nai Win, a town resident says the residents are expecting further conflict and are living in fear after the arrival of government troops in the remote border town. Three hundred troops from three battalions under the command of the Front Line Commander Colonel Thein Zaw are now taking up position to reinforce forces in the area with another on patrol between Anan Kwin and the Three Pagodas Pass.

Karen villagers from Aplon, Ta-Dein and Thet-Kae, situated along the border area, have also left their homes to avoid being forced into portering and used as human shields by the Burmese Army, a Karen villager told a Kaowao reporter.

According to a local source from Sangkhalburi, District Chief Chamra Kongnoi ordered the refugees to return across the border after the Thai authorities were sure that the area was secure when the Burmese authorities reopened the border.

“We do not want to go but the Burmese and the Thai authorities insisted that we return - if we fail to do so they (Burmese Army) will burn down our homes if they are not occupied soon,” said Mi Ngwe from the Burma side of the border town.

About one thousand refugees are still sheltered at the Japanese Well (Palaing Japan) village under the control of the New Mon State Party.

Tension between the ethnic groups and the Burmese junta had been rising after the government’s Border Guard Force ultimatum. The Burmese government wanted the ethnic armies to surrender their arms and join the Burmese Army to act as border security personnel. Some of the DKBA soldiers roundly rejected the offer and broke away from their main group ahead of the country’s first general election.

According to a military observer Nai Ong, who lives in Sangkhlaburi, the Burmese Army may launch a military offensive against the DKBA and KNU forces in the area.