KNU offers splinter group a chance to rejoin the fold
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.”