Karen rebels and govt in talks to end clashes

Government representatives met with rebels from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) in the Karen state capital Hpa-an yesterday, in an effort to end continued clashes.

The DKBA has demanded that the border guard forces return weaponry stolen in recent attacks and to release political prisoners. They also want a stabilisation plan for the region.

Border Guard Forces (BGF) recently attacked five DKBA camps at Yeen Paing Chaung and Mae Thawaw in Myaing Kyee Ngu region and took away 30 pieces of weaponry. The DKBA responded by ambushing border guard military trucks transporting more weapons.

Three BGF members were killed and two wounded, and one DKBA was also wounded in the clash. Fifty villagers from nearby Mae Thawaw fled to the Thai-Burma border.

“As the border guard office is controlled by the government, the state government must solve it personally, I think,” said DKBA spokesman Major Saw Lont Lon of the meeting. “Here, as the persons close to us and connected to us are minister Aung Thaung and minister Thein Zaw who are in the peace making committee, we demanded them to lead discussions.”

The two sides became embroiled in a bitter year-long conflict in November 2010, after a faction of the DKBA – led by Na Kham Mwe – refused to transform into a Naypyidaw-controlled Border Guard Force and subsequently attacked government positions in Myawaddy. A similar refusal to join Naypyidaw’s Border Guard Forces led to resurgence in fighting in Kachin state in June last year.

The DKBA agreed to a ceasefire on the conflict’s anniversary last year, but relations remain volatile.

The DKBA was formed in the mid-1990s after a faction split off from the KNLA and sided with the government. The remaining DKBA troops who did not defect with Na Kham Mwe last year are now part of the Naypyidaw-controlled Border Guard Force.

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