DKBA commander's defiance nudges Karen state towards war

Commander of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’s (DKBA) 907 brigade Gen. Na Kham Mwe’s refusal to sign up to the junta’s Border Guard Force (BGF) proposal, that will see ethnic armies assimilated into the Burmese army, has led to a rise in tensions as the SPDC is reported to be moving artillery near to Walay in preparation for an offensive against dissenting DKBA forces.

On Monday, Karen National Union (KNU) Vice President David Thackrabaw told DVB that 600 refugees had fled with some already having reached the Thai border. On Sunday the Karen National Union (KNU) /Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Peace Council, a splinter group of the KNU, was reporting that 300 women and children had fled the Walay area, heading for the Thai border.

Whilst a Karen villager in the Thai border town of Mae Sot said: “About 150 villagers from Thay Baw Bo village and over 300 from Mae Ke village have fled to the border in fear as the government is planning to arrest commander Na Kham Mwe.”

The KNU/KNLA Peace Council claimed that different factions of the Karen had united as a result of the impending Burmese threat, adding that villagers were battle ready to help repel a Burmese offensive.

Thackrabaw also confirmed that the KNU would back DKBA forces resisting the SPDC. He added that the junta had reneged on initial agreements to give the DKBA full governing rights over Karen State and that several DKBA commanders had been “dragging their feet” ever since the BGF agreement was mooted. He was however uncertain of the size of the rival pro and anti-junta DKBA factions, with the SPDC likely to fight alongside DKBA factions still loyal to them.

Prominent KNLA commander Colonel Ner Dah did however tell DVB that it was too early to confirm any KNLA involvement in any impending conflict, adding that “things are very confused at the moment”, also stating a reluctance to give away strategic information.

It has been reported for several months that the usually pro junta DKBA were vertically split as to whether to support the BGF proposal, which would mean that SPDC officers would be assimilated at brigadier level in all ethnic armies while rumours have also circulated that clashes between the SPDC and DKBA had already occurred.

The KNU/KNLA Peace Council state that medical and humanitarian assistance would be urgently needed.

Additional reporting by Maung Too

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