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Thailand tightens control of Burmese groups on border

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Wednesday, 23 February 2011 13:09 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The BBC Burmese Service has reported that the Thai government is clamping down on armed Burmese ethnic groups and political opposition groups in Tak Province, Thailand.

The authorities reportedly will place greater restrictions on the groups' actions and movements inside Thai territory, the BBC said, citing remarks by the governor of Tak Province.

Observers say that a factor in the restrictions my be the Thai government desire to reopen the closed Mae Sot-Myawaddy friendship bridge, which is a main Thai-Burmese border trade route. The Burmese government ordered it closed on July 12 last year.

According to the Mae Sot Customs Office, the closing is costing border trade at the bridge about 100 million baht [US$ 3.2 million] a day.

Opposition groups say the threatened restrictions on them by Thai authorities is because of pressure from the Burmese military regime and border-based Thai businessmen.

Federation of Democracy in Burma (FDB) General Secretary Dr. Naing Aung told Mizzima: 'It will depend on how much they try to appease the Burmese regime--it will certainly have an impact on our movement'.

One of the ethnic armed groups, the Karen National Union (KNU), said that they have no armed movement inside Thai territory. The new Thai policy would not affect them, even if they had to move entirely into Burma, said KNU Pa-an District chairman Saw Aung Maw Aye.

'There will be no change in our movements even if Thais exert pressure on us. We have many shelters and offices inside Burma. We do not initiate any violent acts in Thailand, and we don't bear any arms in Thai territory', he told Mizzima.

Similarly, Shan State Army (South) (SSA-S) spokesman Sai Lao Sai told Mizzima that they didn't have any permanent offices in Thailand.

But the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which is fighting junta troops in Karen State which borders with Tak Province, said that the Thai government has always viewed it as a rebel force, and the Thais frequently side with the Burmese military regime.

'The Thai government always wants to arrest all of us and hand us over to the regime. They only refrain from doing this because of fear of how it would affect their image. Even now, they choke the movements of KNU troops in their territory here and there', said the DKBA commander of the 5th Brigade, Major Saw San Aung.

He said that the attempt by the Burmese military to eliminate armed ethnic groups and the pro-democracy movements will not be successful and the problem can be successfully resolved only by political means.

Thai military forces and police raided and searched residences of some KNU leaders and the Karen News agency in Mae Sot on February 4.