Hardened troops known as the "Special Force" have joined Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) brigades along the Salween River in anticipation of a post-election assault by the Burma Army.
Seventy Special Force fighters have so far joined KNLA units after a punishing period of combat training.
The six-month training programs are conducted by the KNLA Brigade 5, but recruits are taken from all seven KNLA brigades.
One recruit, Po Deh, told The Irrawaddy: “Our trainer told us that as we are called the Special Force, we need to be very special, like no other soldiers. We have to be not only brave, but also smart and physically strong.”
|KNU soldiers hold their weapons while standing guard at their base in Karen State. (Photo: Getty Images)|
The training program includes a punishing series of exercises to boost physical strength and endurance. War games are staged, with penalties for the losers.
Participants are woken without notice in the early hours, ordered to assemble their weapons and sent out on maneuver.
Another recruit, Poe Li, said: "Burmese government troops can't expect any mercy from us."
Thailand's army has also increased its military presence along the Thai-Burmese border facing eastern Karen State, where 4,000 troops of the KNLA are now on high alert as the Nov. 7 election approaches.
Related Article: Ethnic Armed Groups Prepare for War