The Burmese government has attempted to sweeten relations with a renegade Karen commander by offering him money and property in exchange for his pledge to transform into a Border Guard Force.
An official in Na Kham Mwe’s unit of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) said that military officials had offered the breakaway commander 20 million kyat (US$20,000) and houses and cars if he agreed to transform his Brigade 5 into a border militia.
Na Kham Mwe has allegedly left the DKBA and is now sheltering in territory belonging to the opposition Karen National Union (KNU), whom the DKBA split from in 1994. Burmese troops are now reportedly hunting him.
Other DKBA commanders have signed the border guard agreement, which will see troops assimilated into the Burmese army. Na Kham Mwe has long been seen as a more moderate voice within the pro-government DKBA, and it appears he may rejoin the KNU.
Rumours are circulating that Burmese troops are stepping up preparations for an attack on Na Kham Mwe’s territory. The Brigade 5 official said that soldiers equipped with heavy weapons were last night seen heading to the area in eastern Karen state.
“When I went to the villages in the area this morning, I found out that all the residents had fled,” he said. “Myawaddy [close to the Thai-Burma border] was restless last night. I guess the fight will break out tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”
Seven DKBA troops yesterday defected to the KNU amid talk of an attack on Na Kham Mwe’s unit by a staunchly pro-junta faction within the DKBA.
An intelligence directive received by DVB last week that was sent by senior Burmese army officials to troops in Karen state ordered the capture of Saw Hla Bwe and increase of surveillance on civilians in towns close to DKBA territory.