The BurmaNet News: Monday, January 23, 1995
ANTI-RANGOON ethnic Karen guerrillas have accused the Burmese junta of trying to drive a wedge between religious factions in Karen refugee camps in Thailand by sending infiltrators to stir up resentment.
The Christian-led Karen National Union (KNU), the largest armed ethnic group which is still refusing to enter into a peace dialogue with Rangoon, said the Burmese ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) was also trying to stir disunity based on religious differences within the Karen organization.
The guerrillas said the plan was formulated during a morning meeting on Jan 2 of Burma Army's Southern Operation Command Chief Maj Gen Maung Hla and his 20-member entourage with a group of Karen Buddhist mutineers and monks, led by U Thu zana, a widely respected Buddhist clergyman among local Buddhist communities who was accused by the KNU of being a SLORC spy.
The one-hour meeting took place at a Buddhist temple in Myaing Gyi Ngu on the e ast bank of the Salween River where the mutineers had established their headqua rters after defecting from the KNU to form a rival group called the Democratic Kayin (Karen) Buddhist Association.
The closed-door discussions occurred amid tight security with two battalions of Burma Army's 44th Division standing on alert in nearby villages to provide protection.
According to Padoh Mansha, a close aide of KNU leader Gen Bo Mya, Maung Hla and his team, who flew into Myaing Gyi Ngu from Rangoon, had urged the Karen mutineers to recruit more troops and the SLORC would support them with food, money and weapons.
The Burmese operation chief also urged the mutineers to fight the KNU and to try to take over the KNU headquarters at Manerplaw, about 30 miles northeast of Myaing Gyi Ngu, said Mansha in an interview this week.
"Gen Maung Hla told the mutineers that [if they capture the KNU headquarters] t hey would be allowed to occupy Manerplaw. He also promised them the Karen State , peace and development projects in the area," said Mansha.
During the meeting, Maung Hla had urged the Buddhist monks and former refugees to travel to Karen camps in Thailand to encourage the refugees to return to life in SLORC-controlled areas in Burma. The monks were to create resentment throu gh "rumours" of KNU religious discrimination against Buddhist Karen civilians a nd KNU members, said Mansha.
"The SLORC has promised to provide food for the returnees for one year," he said.
Already five monks were sent to Mae Ta Waw, a former KNU camp on the Moei River which was captured by Burmese troops in 1989 and remains under their control, and that the group of clergymen intended to cross into Thai border camps "to create (religious) disturbance" according to Mansha.
The KNU, meanwhile, was trying to explain and clarify the whole situation to it s members and refugees to avoid any misunderstandings, he added.
In separate interviews this week, Thai authorities at the border have expressed "extreme concern" about the reports of infiltrations of instigators of religious unrest in refugee camps in Thailand.
They feared that the "fragile and delicate" religious conflicts inside the KNU, which had resulted in armed clashes between the Christian-led KNU and a group of 25-300 Buddhist mutineers last month, would escalate and spill across the border.
Mansha said the KNU had already obtained evidence to prove that the SLORC had a ssisted and supported the mutineers.
He cited the incident on Jan 8 near Gan Nyi Naung, where eight mutineer were ki lled. "When we investigated the bodies closely, we found that they were in fact Burmese troops who joined with the "mutineers," he said. KNU forces also captu red seven or eight heavy weapons at the scene, mortars and heavy machine-guns.
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