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Myanmarese defections shock junta,
Subject: Myanmarese defections shock junta, India Govt.
Myanmarese defections shock junta, Indian govt.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS NEW DELHI
5th Oct. 1996
RANGOON, Nov. 4
THE reported defection of over 400 Myanmarese government soldiers to Chin
rebel groups across the Indian border has stymied the attempts of Indian
Myanmarese authorities to crack down on militants.
While the defections across the border came as a rude shock to the
military regime, which prides itself on being a unified army, they have
upset calculations of Indian authorities trying to solicit cooperation
junta is trying to prevent the use of Myanmarese territory as a safe
militant groups from India's northeast.
An Indian official in Rangoon downplayed the report on defections
that "only a few soldiers defected and most of them have been sent back
Myanmar." The Myanmarese soldiers, along with their weapons and
equipment, were reported to have defected last August to the rebel Chin
National Front which operates across the border in Mizoram. While most
the soldiers are of ethnic Chin origin, what has upset the generals in
is the fact that a number of junior commissioned officers defecting were
Burmans, the majority ethnic group which dominates the country.
The soldiers are believed to have been angry with the Myanmarese
government's crude handling of the country's pro-democracy movement which
first erupted in 1988. Despite losing general elections to the National
for Democracy (NLD) led by pro-democracy Aung San Suu Kyi, the military
regime has refused to hand over power to a civilian administration.
Following the defections, the Indian army and the junta have stepped up
cooperation along the common border. Since 1995, after the "warming up"
relations between India and Myanmar following then Foreign Secretary J.N.
Dixit's low-key visit to Rangoon in 1993, the two countries have been
conducting joint military exercises along the border.
Although India has in the past supported Myanmar's pro-democracy movement
and Suu Kyi's NLD since 1993, it has been trying to regain the confidence
the junta, also known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council
As important factor behind this strong policy shift is seen to be the
influence of China in Myanmar and India's need for help from the
army to contain military is the northeastern states.
Indian sources in Rangoon said he cooperation of the Myanmarese army to
militancy in the northeast is crucial as most of the common border is
inaccessible to Indians due to either the harsh terrain or rebel
The last operation between Indian and Myanmarese government forces,
'Golden Bird,' was launched in 1995 with the objective of undermining
rebel forces and various anti-Delhi rebel groups.
The operation was important to the Myanmarese as apart from Chins even
Kachin rebels were reported to have taken refuge In India.
According to a 1996 report by a Thailand-based NGO on child soldiers in
Myanmar, tens of thousands of Kachin and other ethnic groups have moved
camps In India and China because of poverty and alleged abuses by the
However, according to a report in The Nation, a Bangkok-based English
newspaper, operation Golden Bird ended suddenly as the Myanmarese army
was reportedly displeased with Suu Kyi being given the prestigious
The sudden suspension of the operation reportedly enabled about 200
rebels, who had been surrounded in Mizo-Myanmar border by the two forces,
escape into Myanmar.
However, in order to regain the confidence of their Myanmarese
Mizoram police and the Indian army are know to have stepped up their
on Chin rebel bases in the state over the last three months.
Naga rebels inside Myanmar are also reportedly under similar pressure
Myanmarese forces. (IANS.)