DKBA Splinter Group Clashes with Burma Army, Casualties Reported

By Saw Yan Naing 20 October 2016

RANGOON — Casualties were reported in fighting between a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and a joint force of the Burma Army and the allied Border Guard Force (BGF) on Wednesday in Kawkareik Township of Karen State.

“During the attack, four of our soldiers died,” Maj Saw San Aung, a leader of the DKBA splinter group—which calls itself the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army—told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. “The fighting lasted over 30 minutes and we heard that one civilian was injured.”

He said there was fighting yesterday between his troops and the joint force but that that no civilians fled their homes because the fighting broke out far from local villages.

The Burma Army and the BGF launched joint offensives against the DKBA breakaway group in Myaing Gyi Ngu and Mae Tha Waw areas of Hlaingbwe Township in Karen State in September. About 5,000 civilians remain displaced after fleeing the conflict.

After the September offensive, the Burma Army gained full control of Myaing Gyi Ngu and Mae Tha Waw, where the DKBA splinter group was previously based. The DKBA splinter group switched to guerrilla tactics: basing themselves in remote jungle mountain areas and launching surprise attacks on their opponents.

The largest ethnic Karen armed organization the Karen National Union (KNU), which signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the Burmese government last year, recently invited the DKBA splinter group to “rejoin” them under its military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

Maj Saw San Aung told The Irrawaddy that he appreciated the offer by the KNU but his group is not ready to rejoin the organization because they remain engaged in battle in remote areas.

“We are happy that they made this generous offer,” said Maj San Aung. “But it’s difficult to rejoin as KNLA members. We would prefer for a common name such as the Kawthoolei Armed Force.” Kawthoolei is a Karen language name for their ethnic homeland.

Maj Saw San Aung’s DKBA splinter group is estimated to have 200 troops. It broke away from the main DKBA last year after DKBA leaders agreed to sign the NCA, along with the KNU, in October of last year.