MNLA Attacks DKBA Splinter Group in Myanmar’s Karen State

By Lawi Weng 23 September 2019

Members of the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) on Sept. 17 and 18 staged two attacks on a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) that tried to set up a base near the Three Pagodas Pass linking southern Karen State to Thailand, border sources said.

Colonel Saw San Aung, a leader of the DKBA splinter group, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the MNLA, the armed wing of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), attacked his base twice and detained some of his troops.

“They [earlier] asked us to remove our military base from near their control area. They asked us to do it within 24 hours. But our ground forces could not do it on time, so they attacked us,” Col. Saw San Aung said.

Before the attacks, he said, leaders of the MNLA met with his group first and issued a deadline for removing the base.

“They seized some of our guns, and some of our members were detained in the attacks,” he said.

The DKBA splinter group is led by Col. Saw San Aung and Colonel Saw Kyaw Thet. It was originally based in the Myaing Gyi Ngu area of Karen State, but was forced out of the area by a joint attack by the Myanmar Army and the Karen Border Guard Force in 2016. Following the attack, some members moved to northern Shan State, while some hid in areas controlled by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

The splinter group is also affiliated with the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed organizations operating in northeast Myanmar, though it is not yet a full-fledged member.

Nai Ah Kar, a captain from the MNLA, confirmed to Karen News that his armed group clashed twice with the DKBA splinter group.

A source from the MNLA who asked not to be named said the group seized 11 guns from and detained seven members of the DKBA.

“We have heard that our party has released them already,” said the source, who added that the Mon ethnic community shared the DKBA’s aim of fighting against the Myanmar Army.

He also said the Mon State government had pressured the NMSP to arrest members of the DKBA who were active in the MNLA area.

The Mon State government issued a statement on Sept. 2 asking the NMSP to cooperate with the Myanmar Army to arrest members of the DKBA active near the Thai-Myanmar border.

The splinter group of the DKBA, comprising about 30 troops, established a base in the Mae La Kha area on the Thai-Myanmar border, according to the state government statement, which described the DKBA group as “insurgents”.

General Baw Kyaw Heh, vice chief-of-staff of the KNLA, helped the DKBA splinter group get set up in Mae La Kha, according to the Mon State government.

Members of the group tried to recruit new members from Mon and Karen states, assisted by the NMSP, the statement said.

The Mon State government said the group that came under attack was the Klo Htoo Baw Kayin Organization (KKO), the political wing of the DKBA splinter group led by Col. Saw San Aung.

“The group’s intention is to profit politically from creating instability and disrupting the peace process,” according to the Mon State government statement, which was signed by Colonel Nay Htut Oo, the border and security and affairs minister in Mon State.

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