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Cablegate: Concerns Over Spdc Offensive in Karen State

VZCZCXRO3900
PP RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0181 2920944
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190944Z OCT 06
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0306
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0004
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 0578
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0031
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0001
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU PRIORITY 0039
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 0344
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0009

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000181

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREF PINS TH BM
SUBJECT: CONCERNS OVER SPDC OFFENSIVE IN KAREN STATE

REF: A) RANGOON 1536 B) CHIANG MAI 113

1. (SBU) Summary: According to border sources, the Burmese
army offensive in Karen State that persisted throughout the
rainy season (ref b) is now intensifying, despite continued
heavy rains, and appears aimed at crushing the Karen resistance.
Meanwhile, the Karen National Union (KNU) is considering
renewed ceasefire talks with the State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC). Exile groups along the Thai border have resumed
normal movement after keeping a lower profile following the
Sept. 19 coup. The Chinese are showing increased interest in
talking with anti-SPDC groups. End summary.

2. (SBU) In an Oct. 16 meeting with Consulate officers, KNU
and other ethnic exiles seconded recent stories of a sustained
effort by the SPDC to wear down Karen and other ethnic
resistance, destabilizing areas of northern Karen state and
causing hardships for Karen villagers and internally displaced
persons (IDPs). Checks with UNHCR, National Intelligence
Agency and Ministry of Interior offices in Mae Hong Son, Mae
Sariang and Sop Moei show a significant increase in IDPs at the
border, around 3,000 vs. half that number earlier this year; a
deterioration in the security situation would likely step up the
flow of refugees on this side.

3. (U) According to reports from the Free Burma Rangers, a
northern Thailand-based group that provides humanitarian aid to
IDPs, SPDC forces are re-supplying at least one front-line unit
rather than waiting for the end of the rainy season to continue
their offensive. With many roads impassable, this unit is also
increasing its use of forced porters to move supplies, the
organization said.
4. (SBU) KNU Foreign Secretary David Taw acknowledged to
ConOffs that the SPDC offensive is hitting the Karen hard, but,
citing defectors, claimed that SPDC forces are hurting from the
regime's inability to supply and reinforce its own troops near
the border. Taw admitted, however, that the Karen forces have
little to offer as encouragement to defectors and that the SPDC
aims to divide the resistance by sending more troops to the
northern areas while leaving the southern parts unharmed.
5. (SBU) Taw confirmed that KNU representatives met with SPDC
Chief of Military Security Affairs Maj. Gen.Ye Myint in Rangoon
on Oct. 5 (ref a). Referring to the Dec. 2003 "gentleman's
agreement" between the KNU and former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt,
Ye Myint reportedly said, "We don't use that term any more".
The KNU Central Committee is now considering Ye Myint's
invitation to send a delegation in two weeks for discussions
about a possible ceasefire and other issues. "This time we
will chose our own delegation," Taw said, explaining with
evident awkwardness that maverick Pastor Timothy Laklem and two
others had appeared unexpectedly at the talks. "We know they
would like to split the KNU," he said, referring to allegations
that the SPDC has engaged in separate conversations with
elements of the KNU, including Pastor Timothy, and the Karen
National Liberation Army (KNLA).

6. (SBU) Asked about the effects of the Sept. 19 coup in
Thailand on the border situation, Taw noted that KNU operations
were largely unaffected. Thai authorities warned exile leaders
not to travel and closed the Salween River for two weeks, but
Taw reported that the situation is now back to normal. "Bangkok
is busy" with other issues, he explained, and "people at the
border are still friendly" as long as the exile groups don't do
anything to attract undue attention.

7. (SBU) Brussels-based Harn Yawnghwe, Director of the
European Office for the Development of Democracy in Burma,
described holding a half dozen meetings with Chinese officials
in Kunming and Beijing, noting "they never listened to us"
before. In line with similar reports from the National Council
of the Union of Burma (NCUB), Yawnghwe attributed this new
attentiveness to China's realization after Khin Nyunt's arrest
that it needed to broaden its channels of communication on Burma.

CAMP

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