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A group of defectors from the junta-backed Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) have said they are taking new defensive measures in lieu of a possible attack by Burmese troops.
A faction within the group led by Brig-Gen Na Kham Mwe fell out of the favour with the ruling junta after it refused to bow to demands to become a Border Guard Force (BGF), which would bring it under the direct control of Naypyidaw.
Battalions within the splinter group have now been reordered after a meeting in Karen state’s Duplaya district, which is under the control of the opposition Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) – the DKBA split from the KNLA in the mid-1990s and became arch enemies, before the BGF debacle renewed the alliance.
“We are reforming our battalions so we can immediately respond when under attack. Now we have nine battalions with over 1400 troops,” said Saw Moeshe, the DKBA’s Strategic Commander-2. There are a total of 10 battalions, including a Security Battalion, in the newly reformed DKBA.
When asked about the DKBA troops who remained and accepted the BGF transformation, Saw Moeshe was pensive. “They are still Karen. It doesn’t matter how many pieces you slice off a lime – it’ll still have the sour taste, or maybe some will lose the sour taste after being mixed with other ingredients. If they begin to see us differently, then we will treat them differently. For now, we are still like brothers.”
He said that the main concern of the breakaway faction was to clash with these “brothers”. It would feel the same as when the DKBA fought with KNLA troops after the defection 15 years ago, he said.
Around 100 troops that became part of the BGF have defected to Na Kham Mwe’s faction, according to Saw Moeshe.