DKBA Splinter Group Clashes With BGF in Karen State

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 9 October 2015

RANGOON — The Karen State Border Guard Force clashed Thursday with a splinter faction of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) near Kaw Moo village on the old Kawkareik-Myawaddy road in Karen State.

The fighting took place at 10 am and clashes continued until 2 pm, according to Col. San Aung of the splinter group.

“There have been sporadic clashes with the BGF these past months. News of the fighting did not emerge [immediately] because it was taking place in the jungle. As the other side [BGF] is stronger than us, we are fighting guerilla warfare,” San Aung told The Irrawaddy, adding that the BGF used artillery in addition to small arms fire in the fight.

Maj. Naing Maung Zaw of the Karen State BGF confirmed the clashes, but said he was too busy to elaborate when contacted by The Irrawaddy.

The group that clashed with the Karen State BGF on Thursday is a breakaway faction of the DKBA’s Klo Htoo Wah tactical group, led by Brig-Gen Kyaw Thet.

Earlier this year, Kyaw Thet and his men were among a handful of Karen groups to set up tollgates and levy an illegal tax on vehicles plying the Kawkareik-Myawaddy road and the new Asia Highway, leading to clashes in late June with the Burma Army and BGF.

The DKBA leadership at its Klo Htoo Baw headquarters went on to expel the group led by Kyaw Thet, and also later ousted tactical commander San Aung for his association with Kyaw Thet.

Following the DKBA’s expulsion of the men, the Burma Army’s South Eastern Command in Karen State issued warrants for their arrest.

According to San Aung, the DKBA splinter groups object to the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement—due to be inked on Oct. 15 by the government and eight ethnic armed groups—because the peace pact excludes some ethnic armed groups.

“It is a so-called nationwide ceasefire. It is not a good sign that it does not even include half of ethnic armed groups,” San Aung said. “It seems that [the military] is attempting to annihilate us by waging a proxy war through the BGF. We won’t be annihilated, but will only grow bigger.”

More than 40 Karen civil society organizations at home and abroad released a joint statement earlier this month, urging Karen ethnic armed groups not to sign the nationwide ceasefire if some ethnic armed groups continue to be excluded.

Three major Karen armed groups have agreed to sign the accord: the DKBA, Karen National Liberation Army–Peace Council (KNLA-PC), and the Karen National Union (KNU).

Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 locals in Karen State’s Hpapun Township have fled an alleged recruitment drive by KNU Brigade No. 5 and are taking shelter at Myaing Gyi Ngu, an area previously held by the DKBA that is now under the control of the Karen State BGF and the Burma Army.

The KNU has denied the accusations.

Translated by Thet Ko Ko.