DKBA Splinter Group Confirms Leader’s Death

By Kyaw Kha 31 August 2016

Maj. Na Ma Kyar, the commander of a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) that is named after him, has been killed, the splinter group confirmed on Tuesday.

The Na Ma Kyar group on Tuesday released the statement along with a photo of the late Maj. Na Ma Kyar with cuts to his throat, saying that the details of his death would be explained later at a press conference.

A local resident close to the Na Ma Kyar group, who did not wish to be named, said that Maj. Na Ma Kyar was killed in Karen State’s Kawkareik Township by one of five elephant mahouts he had kidnapped for ransom.

“First, they freed one mahout and asked him to bring the ransom. But he didn’t come back. Then they freed another two, who also didn’t come back. So they attempted to arrest new mahouts. One mahout stabbed [Maj. Na Ma Kyar] with a knife out of fear, almost severing his neck,” he told The Irrawaddy.

However, there have also been allegations that the Burma Army, together with allied Karen militia the Border Guard Force, had killed Maj. Na Ma Kyar and invented the story of him being killed by a mahout as a cover. Other rumors have asserted that three Na Ma Kyar group members lost their lives while trying to rescue Maj. Na Ma Kyar from Burma Army captivity.

The Na Ma Kyar group statement also claimed that the Burma Army and Border Guard Force troops were attacking them from two sides in Kawkareik Township, and that clashes may intensify.

The Na Ma Kyar splinter group is based in a remote part of Karen State’s Kawkareik Township. It has exerted control—and collected road tolls—along parts of the Asian Highway, which was built to ease trade and transit between Burma and Thailand via the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border. The group was forced out of its positions on the strategic highway by a joint Burma Army-Border Guard Force attack prior to the official “opening” of the highway in February of this year.

Earlier this month, Border Guard Force troops clashed with the Na Ma Kyar splinter group, injuring four civilians.

On May 11, the Burma Army and the Border Guard Force launched a joint attack on the house of Maj. Na Ma Kyar in Pyabin Village of Kawkareik Township, but Maj. Na Ma Kyar escaped.

In February, clashes between the same groups displaced hundreds of civilians in the area.