Htain Maung Agrees to Border Deal with Junta
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Htain Maung Agrees to Border Deal with Junta

By LAWI WENG Wednesday, February 11, 2009

KNU/KNLA Peace Council chief Brig-Gen Htain Maung has concluded a deal with the Burmese junta to provide soldiers from his group to serve as border guards in Three Pagodas Pass on the Thai-Burmese border, according to a source from the New Mon State Party (NMSP).

The deal follows the ceasefire agreement between the Burmese military authorities and the KNU/KNLA Peace Council—a Karen splinter group that broke from the Karen National Union (KNU) in 2007.

Lt-Gen Ye Myint, the Burmese army’s chief of Military Affairs Security, has overseen the negotiations to set up an “economic development zone” in the Three Pagodas Pass area, according to the source from the Mon ceasefire group.

The Burmese military has already supplied 26 trucks to the KNU/KNLA Peace Council this year to help with transportation in Three Pagodas Pass. Observers speculated that Htain Maung is being granted a greater influence in the border trade and transportation—seen as potentially lucrative business opportunities.

Col Nyan Tun of the Mon National Liberation Army confirmed that Burmese military officials held talks in Three Pagodas Pass last week with Gen Htain Maung and representatives of the Thai army aimed at consolidating the plans for the economic zone.
However, he was unable to provide more details of what the economic zone would entail.

The sources said that Lt-Gen Ye Myint offered Gen Htain Maung about 100 acres of land in Three Pagodas Pass along the border with Thailand, on which he could set up a new battalion to train border guards and establish security for the economic zone.

However, local observers in Three Pagodas Pass said that a new KNU/KNLA Peace Council base in the area might be a pretext for an assault on KNU forces.

Some members of the NMSP said they are worried that the ceasefire group’s alliance with the junta and its plans for a new battalion in the area will curtail the business activities and freedom of movement of local Mon troops and lead to a conflict.

Since signing a ceasefire agreement with the junta two years ago, the KNU/ KNLA Peace Council has launched several attacks on its former comrades, the KNU.

Meanwhile, the group’s leader, Htain Maung, has been allowed freedom to undertake development projects in Karen State.

Another a splinter group from the KNU, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), is also expected to provide border guards in Myawaddy, a border town farther north, under the terms of Burma’s new constitution.

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