Myawaddy's fall should concern region
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Myawaddy's fall should concern region

As the battle against the Myanmar junta intensifies, the allied resistance forces have gained momentum with the seizure of the border town of Myawaddy.

The resistance forces have made progress in the armed conflict that flared up shortly after a coup by Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing that toppled a civilian government under Aung San Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy.

On April 10, the resistance forces took control of Battalion 275, which was one of the Tatmadaw's last outposts. Several Myanmar soldiers waved the white flag.

The resistance forces comprise three major factions: the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU); the People's Defence Force (PDF) and the Border Guard Force (BGF).

The PDF is an army of young people who strongly opposed the Myanmar coup-makers. Having been trained by the KNU, these young fighters, who are always at the frontline against the Myanmar army, have earned recognition for their strong determination and skill. More importantly, they are tech-savvy, with the ability to make homegrown weapons. They also use drones that can avoid the Myanmar army's detection devices.

The BGF under Col Saw Chit Thu, meanwhile, was initially aligned with the junta. It, however, decided to turn its back on the latter, transforming itself into the Karen National Army (KNA). The BGF is not at the front but plays a role in guarding the stronghold. As a former ally of the Tatmadaw, the BGF or the KNA helped negotiate, talking Myanmar soldiers into giving up.

Despite sitting in the backseat, all eyes are on the BGF. It must be said that the pack has overseen the Chinese-backed Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone and KK Park, a hub for gambling, online scams and other crimes, including human trafficking and narcotics. Shwe Kokko is located opposite Mae Sot district in Thailand's Tak province.

Among its two allies, it must be said that the BGF is better off as it earns a large amount of income, not only from lending the land to the Chinese mafias, but also from collecting protection fees. It's believed that Col Saw Chit Thu, the BGF commander, has several million baht in his possession. Since many countries have put him on a wanted list, the colonel has to keep a low profile.

Needless to say, criminal networks in the BGF-controlled area along the Moei River are of global concern. The area is known as a "crime corridor", luring Thais, among others, to work in casinos and commit financial fraud. Such an underground business is not possible without the help of Thais.

Indeed, there are allegations that senior Thai politicians have a hand in the grey business while Chinese mafia bosses pay kickbacks to high-level authorities as they manage to tap electricity and internet signals from Thailand.

This explains why the Thai government turns a blind eye to the heinous crimes along the border.

While pro-democracy countries and groups welcome the news of the junta losing, the fall of Myawaddy has triggered anxiety as to what will happen next.

While the KNU is not supporting the criminal network, it cannot and will not do much, given that the site in question is under the BGF's control, which may want to maintain its financial sources.

It's unclear if that is possible, as China is serious about cracking down on Chinese mafias that have cheated a large number of its citizens, too.

Last month, the Chinese government managed to fly approximately 900 people back to China, though some still remain in northern Shan state.

Beijing sends a clear signal against the mafias. Should the BGF be reluctant to curb the bad business, it is possible that China may cite this as an excuse to back the Myanmar army since the ongoing war in Myawaddy is intertwined with the criminal network along the Moei River.

The Thai government should learn from China the way to handle the criminal network. With strong determination to end the problem, it sent a group of officials to stay in Mae Sot for quite some time before launching its operation.

The world is watching the Myawaddy situation with anxiety as the city has braced for a large-scale war with regard to the fact that the Myanmar junta will try to wrest it from the allied forces' control at any cost.

Paskorn Jumlongrach

Founder and reporter of

Passakorn Jumlongrach is founder and reporter of

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