Monday, 18 November 2019

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2,000 ‘disaffected’ DKBA troops defect to KNU

Mae Sot (Mizzima) – More than 2,000 Democratic Karen Buddhist Army soldiers are said to have defected to the Karen National Union, after military field reports early this week had hundreds of the defectors fighting Burmese Army units as they made their towards the Thai border.

DKBA and KNU representative met on Friday morning to discuss this burgeoning alliance of foot soldiers. Present was Lahu Democratic Front chairman Aik Long Kham Mwe, who said more would join the more than 2,000 DKBA soldiers who had defected to the KNU in recent weeks.

But Chit Thu, the hard-line commander of the DKBA’s Brigade 999, who has made peace with the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and become very rich in the process, still had a hard core of troops around him, Mr Long said. He said Brigade 999 was the militia’s only unit still attacking the KNU.

But for the DKBA rank and file, Chit Thu’s recent three-day public unveiling of his 10-bedroom villa that resembles a Las Vegas hotel might have represented the end of the road for many of them, Mr Long suggested.

There is little doubt Chit Thu is much better off financially than when he fought with the KNU. While his fleet of luxury vehicles grows, DKBA troops live in rudimentary bamboo shelters and eat bamboo shoots with chillies, rice and fish paste. Most of them do not own a single vehicle.

“For years the SPDC has had the Karen killing each other, now it looks like things might swing around,” Mr Long said. “Both the DKBA and KNU were at the meeting I attended this morning (Friday) and they all have the same idea now – to separate from the SPDC.”

“The KNU wants all Karen united, they don’t want to see the SPDC using the DKBA as human shields by pushing them into the front line by themselves,” he said. “Now is the time we must unite,” he said.

Brigade 999 reaps tax revenue from border crossings near Mae Sot, which it shares with KNU/KNLA Peace Council commander Tay Lay Mya, the youngest son of the late KNU powerbroker General Bo Mya.

Revenue from the Thai-Burmese Friendship Bridge across the Moei River is said to contribute about one billion baht a month to the Thai GDP. Bangkok has already approved a second bridge to be built to join Kokko on the Thai side and Shwe Kokko on the Burmese side and it is only a matter of time before construction begins. 

The Tak chamber of commerce has for years lobbied to have such a link and new four-lane highways lead to the sleepy farming outpost of Kokko, cutting their way through the middle of Mae Sot. It is no wonder some locals no longer refer to Kokko by its original Thai name. Some just call it “Chit Thu”.


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