Border Guard Force Shift and Southern Shan State Clashes

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – January 25 by MoeMaKa Media:

Border Guard Force Shift and Southern Shan State Clashes

In a surprising turn of events, the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF), commanded by Colonel Saw Chit Thu, has declared its intention to sever ties with the military council. Operating from Myawaddy Township on the Thai border, the BGF, notorious for engaging in illegal activities like border trade, drug smuggling, and supporting transnational crimes, announced its dissociation from the military council’s command structure.

Originating from a breakaway faction of the Karen National Union (KNU), the BGF has a history intertwined with internal conflicts and alliances in Karen State. Following a series of splits and realignments, the BGF emerged, aligning its interests with economic gains rather than explicit political stances. It is noteworthy that the BGF, primarily motivated by economic interests and lacking a distinct political agenda, has opted to distance itself from the military council.

The detachment of the BGF from the military council is suspected to be a result of negotiations between the military council and the Thai government. The discussions are believed to focus on joint efforts to suppress online fraud gangs operating in areas like Shwekokeko, with the commission earned from these criminal activities outweighing the profits from drug trafficking and other illicit enterprises.

It’s crucial to exercise caution in interpreting the BGF’s decision, given its historical focus on economic gains over political ideals. The organization’s track record of human rights violations and collaboration with authorities in suppressing dissent raises concerns among locals in Mon State and Karen State.

In a separate development, reports indicate armed clashes erupting in southern Shan State. The conflict initiated when the military council’s forces intercepted a convoy of the Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLA) transporting weapons and ammunition on January 21. This incident led to exchanges of gunfire, resulting in the destruction of approximately 27 houses in San Phu Village, Hopong Township. The clash marks the beginning of hostilities between the PNLA and the military council’s PNO forces in the Southern Shan region, where various armed groups operate.

The PNLA, adhering to the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), retaliated against the military council explicitly, sparking speculation about the potential involvement of the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) in the conflict. The SSPP/SSA, assuming the northern Shan regions as its base, may be engaged in negotiations with the TNLA regarding administration, tax collection, and recruitment in areas like Namhkam.

For the military council, the armed clashes in Southern Shan add another front to their already challenging situation, marking an unfortunate turn in their efforts to maintain control.