DKBA Splinter Group Lose Several Bases to Burma Army and Border Guard Force

By Saw Yan Naing 16 September 2016

The Burma Army and the allied Border Guard Force (BGF) took at least three bases from a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), as fighting escalated in Karen State’s Mae Tha Waw area on Thursday, amid claims that the Burma Army and the BGF have been forcibly conscripting locals as porters.

Capt. Saw Ye Htet, an information officer of the DKBA splinter group—named after their late commander Maj. Na Ma Kyar—said their troops withdrew from several bases following heavy artillery fire from the Burma Army and BGF advance.

“We couldn’t use defensive tactics to repel them because they dared not advance on the ground, instead firing heavy artillery shells from far away. So, we changed tactics. We withdrew from our bases and used guerilla tactics,” said Capt. Saw Ye Htet.

The joint force overran the Wa Klu Lu, Kulu Htaw and Yeika Gone bases, all located in the Mae Tha Waw area of Hlaingbwe Township in Karen State’s Hpa-an District.

In Facebook video posts, believed to have been uploaded by BGF affiliates on Thursday evening, two BGF officers declared that they had captured all of the bases belonging to the Na Ma Kyar group on Thursday.

There are reports that Maj. San Aung, a leader of the DKBA splinter group who is on a Burma Army wanted list, was injured in battle. Other reports say that he died.

Capt. Ye Htet said that he had also heard that Maj. San Aung was injured but could not confirm until contact was made.

The Irrawaddy also could not reach Maj. Saw San Aung.

Locals and DKBA splinter group sources claim that the Burma Army and the BGF have suffered scores of deaths since fighting broke out in early September. DKBA splinter group sources stated that two of its soldiers have been injured in the same time frame, but some expect that the casualty rate to be higher on their side.

Meanwhile, sources in Karen State’s Myaing Gyi Ngu village said that the Burma Army and the BGF were forcibly conscripting young men as porters to carry food, supplies and ammunition to the frontline.

A housewife in Htee Tha Dawt Hta, a village near Myaing Gyi Ngu, said that locals do not let their sons or husbands travel to Myaing Gyi Ngu village for fear of them being conscripted in this manner.

“I heard from my friend in Myaing Gyi Ngu that they [the BGF and the Burma Army] conscript many young men as porters. So, we are afraid that they will conscript more porters in other villages including ours,” said the housewife, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

DKBA splinter group sources also claimed that the Burma Army and the BGF has seized villagers for use as human shields in battle. They said fighting had reached its peak since breaking out in early September.

Due to the fighting in the areas of Mae Tha Waw and Myaing Gyi Ngu, about 3,800 villagers have fled their homes and are staying in Maying Gyi Ngu village at a local hall, monasteries, and in locals’ houses, while others have fled across the border to Thailand.