It would appear after losing most of their territory to the Myanmar Army’s Border Guard Force the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, or DKBA-Buddhist, have decided to move operations to northern Shan State. According to a recent Irrawaddy article, the group has joined the Northern Alliance – Burma.
The Northern Alliance – Burma (NA-B) consists of four ethnic armed groups—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA). The alliance launched an offensive on Myanmar Army positions in several townships including Muse, Kutkai, and Namkham in Shan State on Nov. 20.
The report quotes one of the DKBA’s leaders, San Aung, as saying,
As we could not be active in our former area we have moved to a new area to continue our revolution,
A TNLA secretary Col. Tar Phone Kyaw confirmed that San Aung’s soldiers had joined the alliance and would be “working together to fight the Burma Army.”
The report also notes,
Col. San Aung, who is on the Burma Army watch list, has made long and arduous journeys across the country to join ethnic armed groups in the past. He was once based in Wang Hai with the Shan State Army-North and recently fought with the AA in Arakan State.
It must be noted that it is unlikely that San Aung would have been ‘based’ at the SSPP’s Wanhai HQ, although he would most likely have been there seeking support. It remains unclear how many troops have in fact joined him.
The report notes, quoting the Ministry of Defence, that,
Seven members of the DKBA splinter group surrendered to the Burma Army in Myawaddy Township, Karen State on Jan. 1 after disagreeing with Col. San Aung’s actions.
The decision to move his troops to northern Shan State did not go down well with some of his followers with, according to the President’s Office, 23 more members of the group, misidentified as KKO which is the DKBA – Benevolent, also surrendering because,
. . . they did not accept the attitudes of the Saw Hsan Aung [sic] splinter group
Although it is highly unlikely that the reason given for their surrender,
[they] wanted to live peacefully abandoning the armed line, that they had come to realise true attitudes of the government and Tatmadaw towards the indigenous people
Either way, the inclusion of San Aung in the NA-B is unlikely to strengthen the NA-B’s bargaining power and only adds future complications when negotiating peace. Meanwhile, whether the other two groups under the DKBA-Buddhist banner, led by Kyaw Thet and Bo Bi (aka Saw Taing Shwe) will join their colleague remains unclear.