More Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) troops are deploying near Three Pagodas Pass in preparation for an offensive against Brigade 6 of the Karen National Liberation Army, according to local sources.
A businessman at Three Pagodas Pass said that about 80 DKBA soldiers arrived last week to set up a new battalion at Three Pagodas Pass, which is 3 kilometers from the township.
More troops are to come, according to the businessman.
About 1,000 Burmese troops are on their way to the area, according to the New Mon State Party (NMSP).
The sources said that a joint DKBA and Burmese force plans to take Maekatha village, the main KNLA Brigade 6 base, which is about 15 kilometers from Three Pagodas Pass.
The offensive aims to gain control of lucrative concessions for logging, commercial trade and taxation.
A member of the KNU at Three Pagodas Pass said, “We know their plans and will not allow them to succeed. We will fight back.”
The New Mon State Party (NMSP) is concerned that the Burmese troops will target them in turn.
“This is first time such a large Burmese force has come near us in 14 years of ceasefire with the junta,” said Nai Chay Mon, a member of the NMSP.
The Mon refused the recent Burmese army request to transform their troops into a border guard force.
The NMSP said that the Burmese army plans to set up a new brigade at Three Pagodas Pass, which it thinks will be used against the NMSP if tensions escalate.
The NMSP said that the Burmese military will give more control over border trade to the DKBA at the Three Pagodas Pass, hoping that this will encourage fighting between the NMSP and DKBA.
“Even the Karen fight Karen, so the Mon are ready to fight anytime,” NMSP member Nai Lawi Mon said.
The NMSP and DKBA have had frequent disputes at the Three Pagodas Pass. Last year, a member of the DKBA was killed by the NMSP after a crackdown on drugs in their area.
In 1988, the KNU and NMSP clashed at the Three Pagodas Pass, causing loss of life on both sides.
Meanwhile, the DKBA has expanded the area where it will serve as a border guard force and control border trade.
The DKBA seized KNLA Brigade 7 in June, and joint DKBA and Burmese army forces intend to seize all KNLA-controlled areas along the border before the Burmese regime holds its planned general election in 2010, according to border sources.
The DKBA is the only armed ethnic group that has agreed to transform its troops into a border force after the 2010 election.
Security analysts describe the DKBA as an armed group that earns income from drug trafficking and car smuggling with the tacit acceptance of the military junta.