By VIOLET CHO
The Irrawaddy News
The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a splinter group of the Karen National Union (KNU), reportedly forcibly recruited villagers to bolster its forces for a military offensive against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
According to the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), which documents the human rights situation in Karen State, the DKBA Brigade 999, led by Maung Chit Thu, began a recruiting campaign in mid-August, ordering village heads in T’Nay Hsah Township, Pa’an District, to muster local people to take part in an assault on a stronghold of the KNLA’s Sixth Brigade in Kawkareik district.
Selection was carried out by a lottery system. Those chosen were enlisted for at least 18 months service in the DKBA army.
Poe Shan, field director of KHRG, said: “About 175 villagers from 11 villages in Pa-an district are now intensively being trained to be soldiers in the DKBA army.”
Villagers selected under the lottery system could hire others to take their place, but had to guarantee that the replacements would not desert the army. Villages were also required to pay the DKBA 300,000-400,000 kyat (US $235-313) for the upkeep of each recruit.
A KNLA Sixth Brigade official confirmed that DKBA battalions 907, 903 and 333 were being deployed for a military offensive. The Sixth Brigade was ready to confront the attackers, he said.
Hser Gay, a senior member of the Brigade’s taxation department, said the DKBA wanted to wrest control of Kawkareik district from the KNLA because of the economic advantages to be gained, in logging and mining.
Several skirmishes between KNLA and DKBA forces have occurred this year, and DKBA troops overran a KNLA Battalion 201 base in early July, forcing many Karen villagers to flee across the border to Thailand.
Despite the military buildup, the KNU is proceeding with preparations for its 14th congress, at which successors will be chosen for its assassinated General Secretary Padoh Mahn Sha and deceased President Ba Thein Sein.