KNU of­fers splin­ter group a chance to re­join the fold

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­

In a bid to bring peace to Kayin State, the Karen Na­tional Union has in­vited a splin­ter fac­tion to re­join its ranks, af­ter the lat­ter did bat­tle with the Tat­madaw last month.

THE Karen Na­tional Union (KNU) has reached out to a Karen splin­ter group that clashed with the Tat­madaw last month, telling the group its soldiers can fall into the KNU ranks if it re­nounces a state­ment made early this year.

The en­treat­ing came in the form of an Oc­to­ber 4 state­ment from the KNU, specif­i­cally en­cour­ag­ing the Demo­cratic Karen Bud­dhist Army (DKBA) to con­sider join­ing the KNU, stan­dard-bearer for the coun­try’s long­est-run­ning armed op­po­si­tion move­ment.

DKBA troops, thought to num­ber around 100 in to­tal, clashed with an al­lied con­tin­gent of Tat­madaw and Bor­der Guard Force soldiers last month in the Mae Tha Waw area of Hlaingbwe town­ship, Kayin State, lead­ing thou­sands of civil­ians to flee their homes.

The state­ment the DKBA is be­ing asked to dis­avow was made by the group on Jan­uary 16. It ef­fec­tively an­nounced the splin­ter fac­tion’s for­ma­tion as an in­de­pen­dent ac­tor among Myan­mar’s myr­iad eth­nic armed groups.

The KNU’s joint sec­re­tary No 2, Pado Mahn Mahn, said the DKBA could im­prove prospects for peace in Kayin State by join­ing the KNU fold.

The DKBA, led by Colonel Saw Kyaw Thet and Saw San Aung, early this year broke away from the Demo­cratic Karen Benev­o­lent Army, it­self a splin­ter group of the KNU. Both the “Benev­o­lent” DKBA and the KNU signed the so-called na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment in Oc­to­ber 2015.

“By re­join­ing, DKBA troops could stop of­fen­sives by the Tat­madaw in our area. It [the KNU state­ment] was also of­fer­ing the of­fi­cial op­por­tu­nity for the DKBA and the KNU to be united again,” Pado Mahn Mahn said.

He added that as an NCA sig­na­tory, the KNU had been “anx­ious” about the re­cent fight­ing in Hlaingbwe town­ship.

Though the DKBA has yet to re­spond to the KNU of­fer, Ko Kyaw Kyaw, a peace ne­go­tia­tor for the for­mer, wel­comed the over­ture.

“It is good to sup­port the DKBA led by Colonel Saw Kyaw Thet and Saw San Aung. The troops have suf­fered a se­ri­ous set­back by the at­tacks of the mil­i­tary and the BGF. It’s kind of a sup­port­ive act from the KNU, mother or­gan­i­sa­tion of the DKBA. It’s a good sign,” said Ko Kyaw Kyaw.

The Oc­to­ber 4 state­ment from the KNU said the in­vi­ta­tion to the DKBA was in keep­ing with the goal of a com­mit­tee formed in 2013 to unite the var­i­ous Karen armed fac­tions un­der one ban­ner.

A de­ci­sion from the DKBA will be an­nounced fol­low­ing a meet­ing of its lead­er­ship.

The KNU is the largest Karen eth­nic armed group, as well as the most in­flu­en­tial of the eight non-state armed or­gan­i­sa­tions to sign last year’s NCA. Its lead­ers is­sued a call last month for all sides to end to the hos­til­i­ties in Hlaingbwe town­ship.

Pado Mahn Mahn re­it­er­ated that call this week, say­ing the fight­ing in Septem­ber could have im­pacts for stake­hold­ers be­yond the three war­ring par­ties.

“The Tat­madaw have been on the of­fen­sive in the area of the DKBA. This also af­fects a brigade of the KNU. If the govern­ment wants real peace, it should stop the of­fen­sives and put in ef­fort to ne­go­ti­ate,” he said. “It is also threat­en­ing trust in the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment.”

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