INTRODUCTION: Next month (November) Burma will hold presidential elections for a successor to Mr.
GV & SV Parade of Peguan Army troops. (5 SHOTS)
GV Soldier raises Peguan flag.
SV Soldiers walking through fields.
SVs Soldiers at Peguan camp. (2 SHOTS)
GV Peguan army camp.
SV & GV Soldiers cleaning and loading weapons. (3 SHOTS)
SVs & GVs Peguan soldiers on patrol in jungle. (4 SHOTS)
SV 'President' Nai Nonla of Peguan people, with soldiers. (3 SHOTS)
GV Elephant pulling cart through village.
GVs OF Village hospital.
SV INTERIOR PAN People in hospital beds. (4 SHOTS)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: INTRODUCTION: Next month (November) Burma will hold presidential elections for a successor to Mr. U Ne Win, who is not seeking re-election. Whoever becomes the new president one of his persistent problems will be to deal with the continuing resistance of rebel ethnic minority groups to rule from Rangoon.
SYNOPSIS: These soldiers gathered in a field in north-west Thailand are members of the Peguan Army of the Mon People. They comprise the military wing of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), a rebel minority group who are fighting for their own federal state.
The Mon People hope that one day their flag can be raised in Burma - a country the Mons ruled for hundreds of year until the eighteenth century. Now, almost four million of them live in exile in Thailand.
One Peguan army base is near the Three Pagodas Pass on the Thai-Burmese border. The pass was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting so far between the Peguan and the Burmese regular army. Last year, the Burmese tried to storm the pass and take the main Mon base camp. They were repelled and, according to the NMSP, took heavy casualties.
The Three Pagodas Pass is also the former route of the Thai-Burmese railway built by the Japanese during World War II. The infamous line, where thousands of Allied prisoners of war died, now provides one of the Peguan Army's main trails into Burma. It leads them through rocky highlands to the areas in eastern Burma that they contest. Some rails and sleepers remain in place to ease their passage across the rugged countryside, especially in the wet season when the going is arduous. The Peguan army contains only 5,000 men, including village militia. However, the NMSP say they control six Burmese Provinces, a claim that Rangoon strongly disputes.
Much of the Mon hopes rest with the NMSP president Nai Nonla. The 64-year-old leader commands the Peguan Army and his aim is a Burma comprising eight federal states, one for each of the ethnic groups who are fighting the Burmese authorities. But the Mons are unlikely to succeed unless they can co-ordinate resistance with other ethnic groups. Two of these, the Shan and the Karen, appear more preoccupied with lucrative opium production.
This lack of co-ordination is just one of the problems confronting the NMSP. Their limited resources have been stretched by the struggle. Cerebral malaria is rife in the area that they control, and they have only two doctors and little medicine. Despite these problems the NMSP are keeping up the struggle to gain their own federal state.