Mr. Beard Breaks Away
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Sunday, June 16, 2024


Mr. Beard Breaks Away


KIA standing committee briefs the peace delegation before the trip to Ruili. (Photo: Irrawaddy)
(Page 2 of 3)

Chief among them is Col Chit Thu, the commander of DKBA Battalion 999 and the most powerful DKBA military leader.

Within the DKBA’s fiefdom along the Thai-Burmese border, Chit Thu and his cronies have built a business empire in logging, automobiles and minerals such as zinc and tin, mostly based in the Burmese border town of Myawaddy, which has a trade link with the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

Border sources say that most DKBA leaders such as Chit Thu are not interested in politics, only in business, and until recently Chit Thu has been ruthless in his willingness to do the regime’s bidding and create space for his budding business empire, even at the expense of his own Karen people. Many Karen sources said that the attacks on KNLA Brigade 7 in June 2009, which displaced 4,000 Karen villagers, were planned by Chit Thu with the aim of opening an area to build an “economic zone” after the battle was won.

Col.Chit Thu salutes DKBA troops on the parade ground.(Photo:SHAH PAUNG /THE IRRAWADDY)
So it’s not surprising that Chit Thu has reportedly been the DKBA’s most vocal advocate for joining the BGF—stable relations with the regime are obviously good for business—and sources said that both Chit Thu and Gen Kyaw Than, the DKBA commander-in-chief who also has a substantial interest in cross-border trade, will most likely join the BGF and bring DKBA Brigades 7 and 9 along with them.

But there is stiff resistance to joining the BGF within the DKBA. The opposition is led by U Thuzana, who according to some observers is as powerful and influential as Chit Thu. He told DKBA leaders to keep their organization’s name and not to accept the Burmese junta’s BGF plan, said a DKBA member.

“They [the DKBA] told me the day the government changes the name of the DKBA would be the day they will start to fight the regime,” said a Karen businessman.

Another Karen source close to the DKBA in Myawaddy Township said: “The majority of DKBA members don’t want to lose the name of their organization. They are worried that without the DKBA name, there will be no political objective and no hope for a better future for ethnic Karen. This is why they don’t want to transform their troops into part of the BGF.”

The possibility of coming under direct control of the Burmese regime is also being rebuffed by many mid- and lower-level DKBA members. Karen sources said several DKBA units disagree with their leadership and do not want to join a force that will be dominated by Burmese military commanders.

Saw Hsar Paw, a former DKBA soldier who defected, said, “Joining the border guard force is not only surrendering our weapons, but also our fighters. We would automatically become part of the Burmese armed forces when we obey the order.”

A DKBA officer at the Three Pagodas Pass told The Irrawaddy: “We will never betray our Karen people. We will keep our arms following our leader Saw Ba U Gyi’s principles, and we will fight for the freedom of our Karen people.”

Despite its long-running dispute and bitter battles with the KNLA, there is also growing resistance inside the DKBA to taking up arms against fellow Karen. Observers have said that the Burmese junta’s pressure on the DKBA to transform into part of the BGF may push the DKBA to settle its differences and join forces with the KNU.

Saw Lah Pwe told The Irrawaddy that if war does break out, two-thirds of the DKBA will return to the insurgency. “Chit Thu and Kyaw Than will be forced to flee the country,” he said.

Possibly hedging his bets, even Chit Thu has begun making overtures to his fellow Karen, although not directly to the KNU. At a June 26 ceremony organized to pay respects to DKBA soldiers who died in battles between the DKBA and KNU, Chit Thu said, “I am unhappy to see that my Karen soldiers are getting killed during battles between Karen and Karen,” according to a source who attended the ceremony. Chit Thu then vowed in front of 10,000 people: “I will stop fighting my fellow Karen.”

U Mahn, a Karen guest speaker at the event, said, “Our people will only die if we continue to fight against each other. Nobody will come and help us,” he said. “It is time for us to stop killing each other and be united.”  

In response to Chit Thu’s statement, KNU General Secretary Zipporah Sein said that she welcomes the DKBA statement if it was really true. “If they [DKBA] don’t attack us and Karen villagers, if they don’t obey the regime’s order, that is fine even though they live in luxury from doing business and entering into a cease-fire with the regime,” she said.

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Keinhteet Wrote:
Ti Law Pwe,

I really respect your standpoint and will pray for you everynight even though I haven't met you in real life.

Take a good care of yourself.

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