The Karen National Union and the Karen Klo Htoo Baw Organisation—often referred to as the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)—wrapped up their meeting on Thursday by releasing a joint statement announcing support for the formation of a unified Karen army, the Kawthoolei Armed Forces (KAF).
The joint statement said the KNU has agreed—in principal—to establish the KAF, while the DKBA unconditionally agreed to form the KAF. According to the statement, the KAF will work with other ethnic groups in Burma and democracy activists (both at home and abroad) to realize the creation of a democratic federal political system in Burma.
Col. Saw Paw Doh, the KNU’s spokesperson at the meeting, said: “Our aim is to unify all Karen armed groups under one banner, and the KNU—in accordance with its objective of providing political leadership [for the Karen population]—has decided to throw its weight behind the KAF.”
KNU representatives attended the first day of the meeting (29 October) in person, but on the second and final day two key KNU-affiliated figures who strongly support the KAF decided to join the meeting via telephone: Baw Kyaw Heh, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), and Ner Dah Mya, the commander-in-chief of the Karen National Democratic Organisation (KNDO). The KNLA is the KNU’s armed wing, while the KNDO is the KNU’s village militia.
Another major Karen armed group, the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council (or the Karen Peace Council (KPC)), did not attend the talks, but the group’s former leading member Dr. Timothy was present.
In an interview with DVB, the KNLA’s Baw Kyaw Heh said, “Just like the Karen people we also want to see a unified Karen army. To this end, our unification committee will work step-by-step to facilitate negotiations between Karen armed groups.”
During the meeting KNDO chief Nadah Mya said, “Although we cannot meet face-to-face at this time, I would like to say that we are united. I also want to urge the Karen people to help facilitate this unification, as it is our people’s objective.
“Since we are all children of Saw Ba U Gyi we still hold in our hearts Saw Ba U Gyi’s four principals, and we want to tell everyone—don’t feel disheartened.”
The meeting was held at the DKBA’s Sonseemyaing headquarters in Karen State, but over 300 people from various Karen-populated areas participated in the meeting either in person or via telephone, including political leaders, military officers and individuals from the Karen community.