Rival Karen Armed Groups Continue Latest Round of Fighting

By Nyein Nyein 9 January 2018

YANGON — Fresh fighting broke out in a remote part of Karen State on Monday between two ethnic armed groups, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and Karen National Union (KNU), with alleged involvement of the Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw.

The DKBA claims that its Battalion 905 has been under attack by an alliance of troops from the Tatmadaw, the government-back Border Guard Force and KNU since Oct. 16 and that the fighting escalated on Jan. 1.

Battalion 905 Caption Hla San told The Irrawaddy that the Tatmadaw and KNU on Monday attacked his camp, located in a remote area between Mae Tha Waw village and Myaing Gyi Ngu, in Hlaing Bwe Township.

“It happened today around 11 a.m., and they have been firing artillery since the weekend,” he said.

“The KNU, in coalition with the Tatmadaw, blocked our food transport routes. They destroyed the rice field,” added the DKBA’s Colonel Saw San Aung.

Members of the DKBA, including the colonel, strongly oppose the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and are active supporters of the Northern Alliance, a group of seven armed group that have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

Col. Saw San Aung said the latest skirmishes took various forms, including landmine attacks, arms fire and guerilla tactics.

He said the Tatmadaw encourages the KNU to fight the DKBA because its territory is near the planned construction site of Hat Gyi hydropower dam.

“They have this dam project and the site has been prepared for construction, especially the clearing of the route for the Mae Tha Waw road. There is no way they would give up on it. But to implement it, they need to get rid of us, so they help the Karen armed groups to fight us,” the colonel said.

Brigadier General Sha Du Wawh, of the Karen National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the KNU, would neither confirm nor deny an attack on the DKBA on Monday. But he rejected as rumor the claim that the KNU was working with the Tatmadaw.

“We protected our territory so that we could avoid further confrontation with the Tatmadaw,” he told the Irrawaddy.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, which has not signed the NCA, is a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, which has.

Chit Min Tun contributed to this report.