Karen rebels, govt agree ceasefire

Following intensive negotiations in the Karen state capital of Hpa-an yesterday, the opposition Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Burmese government have agreed to a ceasefire that will see both sides lay down arms on the eve of the anniversary of their conflict.

The head of the DKBA, Na Kham Mwe, told DVB last night that the truce would be rolled out among forces across Karen state on 6 November, but that fighting would cease in some areas beginning 5 November.

The government will reportedly begin to withdraw troops from DKBA territory tomorrow. Na Kham Mwe said some had already been pulled out of the Kawkareit region.

Prior negotiations between the government and the DKBA had failed to end in agreement. Few details of yesterday’s talk have not been revealed, nor the conditions attached to the ceasefire.

The DKBA’s Major San Aung said only that the two sides had agreed to set up a liaison office in the border town of Myawaddy, and “to pass through one another’s territory whilst carrying arms, providing there is prior permission”.

The two sides have been embroiled in a bitter conflict since DKBA troops attacked government positions in Myawaddy on 7 November last year, the day of Burma’s first elections in 20 years.

Na Kham Mwe’s troops defected from the pro-government faction of the DKBA in August last year after he refused to transform into a Naypyidaw-controlled Border Guard Force. Similar refusals among other ethnic armies in Burma have sparked widespread fighting this year.

The government held talks with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) last month, but they quickly broke down. Shortly after its defection, DKBA troops began fighting alongside the KNLA, whose 60-year war with the Burmese government is thought to be the world’s longest-running.

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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