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A group of defectors from the pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) have taken control of a major border crossing and military and police posts in eastern Burma.
The head of the faction, Brig-Gen Na Kham Mwe, told DVB that the group had seized the Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge entrance in Karen state’s Myawaddy, as well as police, army and intelligence offices.
“They [Burmese army] announced that they will shoot people who don’t vote [in today’s elections]. So people called on us to seize the town,” he said.
“In order to win votes in the elections, [the junta] is bullying and forcing people to vote. But the people want to boycott [the vote], so the soldiers are holding them at gunpoint and our troops had to intervene and take sides with the people.”
The breakaway DKBA group, comprised of former junta loyalists who refused to transform into a Border Guard Force, has some 1000 troops in Myawaddy, Na Kham Mwe said.
The DKBA now “has control of every location” and police and Burmese troops have withdrawn from the town, he added. Myawaddy acts as a major crossing point for trade between Thailand and Burma, but the checkpoint has been closed since July following a dispute between the two governments.
Na Kham Mwe said that around 200 troops from the Border Guard Force had this morning defected to his faction, while opposition Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) troops arrived today to aid the renegades.
A Japanese journalist was arrested early this morning in Myawaddy after illegally crossing the border. It is not clear whether he is being held in one of the said police stations.