DKBA Splinter Group Joins Northern Alliance

By Lawi Weng 3 January 2017

A Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) splinter group led by Col. San Aung joined forces with the Northern Alliance in northern Shan State while seven of its soldiers surrendered to the Burma Army, Col. San Aung told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

“We got agreement to become a member of the Northern Alliance,” he told The Irrawaddy on the phone from an MNDAA-controlled area on the Chinese border in northern Shan State, adding that he had moved his troops from Karen State to northern Shan State and that a formal statement would follow.

Seven members of the DKBA splinter group surrendered to the Burma Army in Myawaddy Township, Karen State on Jan. 1 after disagreeing with Col. San Aung’s actions, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Moulmein-based Hinthar media reported that the surrendering soldiers had refused to go to northern Shan State and fight alongside the Northern Alliance.

The Northern Alliance of four ethnic armed groups—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA)—launched an offensive on Burma Amy positions in several townships including Muse, Kutkai, and Namkham in Shan State on Nov. 20.

A TNLA secretary Col. Tar Phone Kyaw confirmed that the Col. Aung San’s soldiers had joined the alliance and would be “working together to fight the Burma Army.”

Col. San Aung stressed that his group will continue to have a presence in Karen State, where his splinter group lost ground in the Mae Tha Waw area of Hlaingbwe Township during clashes with the Burma Army in October.

The Northern Alliance shared the Karen people’s view of autonomy and self-determination, according to the colonel.

“As we could not be active in our former area we have moved to a new area to continue our revolution,” he said, adding that one day the Northern Alliance may come south to aid Karen ethnic armed groups.

Col. San Aung said that ethnic armed group leaders were committed to peace, as shown by their attendance at the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference, but that the Burma Army continued to attack ethnic armed groups.

He accused the Burma Army of using artillery and air strikes against ethnic armed groups but said that this could not destroy his group’s “revolutionary spirit.”

“Burma’s civil war will not end if they keep acting like this. The war even could go on for another 60 years,” he said.

At the time of the Northern Alliance’s first offensive the TNLA’s Col. Tar Bong Kyaw expressed a similar sentiment that the attack came because of persistent Burma Army action against the ethnic armed groups. “The Burma Army has launched a lot of military offensives in ethnic areas. For the TNLA, it has become hard to be based in the jungle,” he said.

Col. San Aung, who is on the Burma Army watch list, has made long and arduous journeys across the country to join ethnic armed groups in the past. He was once based in Wang Hai with the Shan State Army-North and recently fought with the AA in Arakan State.

He said that it was nothing special to travel to the corners of the country to fight for his alliance and that he was determined to fight to destroy the military regime.

“We will die for our people, but our time has not come yet,” he said. “I dare to die for our people.”