Khin Kyaw of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) has announced that he has left the students’ army and will lead a new group of some 300 members, which he called the Union National Resistance Army, or UNRA.
Speaking on Sunday at a meeting in Bilin, Mon State, the prominent ABSDF militant said his faction would seek a separate ceasefire with the Burmese government while pledging to continue working with ethnic villagers on development issues.
Khin Kyaw, along with his comrade in arms, Kyaw Kyaw, said they had recruited some 300 members, though not all from the ranks of ABSDF. That figure is thought to include family members.
“Our policies are not much different from ABSDF,” he told DVB on Monday. “We have all been together now for 26 years, during which time we had no problems over issues. But I now feel like the ABSDF is more focused on the current political situation rather than implementing its policies and strategy.
“So we have founded a new group, the Union National Resistance Army, which will be dedicated to implementing [our original] political aims and to assist local people with what they really want.”
In response to the split, ABSDF Vice-chairman Myo Win defended the student groups’ involvement in the current peace process and questioned the breakaway faction’s motives.
“Under the current process, we are trying to resolve political problems through political means,” he said. “We have no intention of moving back to Burma, nor do we wish to work on development projects. In this regard we differ from them [UNRA].
“If we look at their request to work as a separate organisation seeking its own ceasefire agreement, I think we can see it is based on personal interests, not in the interests of the country or the people,” he said.
Myo Win played down the impact of the split. “This is not a serious issue,” he told DVB. “I would like to make it clear that this is not a case of the ABSDF splitting in two – it is just one or two persons.”
The ABSDF was born out of the 1988 students’ uprising in Burma and subsequent military coup. Up to 10,000 students, many from middle-class families in the main cities, travelled to border areas to join the armed resistance to military rule. Many have fought for years alongside hardened Karen and Kachin guerillas in the malaria-infested jungles of eastern and northern Burma.