Recent Conflict in Karen State
In September 2016, over 4,000 Karen civilians were forced to flee their homes due to fighting between a breakaway Democratic Karen Benevolent Army faction and the Myanmar Army’s Border Guard Force (BGF) in the Mae Tha Waw area of Karen (Kayin) State. Fighting by the group, which has resurrected the name Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA)[i] and has sworn allegiance to U Thuzana, the Myaing Gyi Ngu Sayadaw,[ii] has been characterised by a number of commentators as being nationalist in nature. However, the origins of the group, and their objectives, do not necessarily support such a hypothesis. Instead, it further illustrates the confusion over the perceived ethno-nationalist conflict of some Karen groups and those that are seeking to perpetuate their own existence at a cost to the local population.
[i] Referred to here as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army – Kyaw Htet (DKBA-KH) to differentiate between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) which signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on 15 October 2015.
[ii] U Thuzana, or the Myaing Gyi Ngu Sayadaw, was the patron of the original Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) when it split from the Karen National Union in December 1994.