Aging and infirm officers of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’s Border Guard Force who have retired and fled to liberated areas of Karen State say they have received death threats from active officers.
Saw Mu Hsoe, also known as Hta Kler, served as second in command of Brigade 999’s Battalion 3 prior to his retirement and says he remains under surveillance by the DKBA.
“Although I have retired, they are still suspicious of me. They worry that I and others will join Major General Na Khan Mway or the KNU,” he said, referring to the head of the Brigade 5 breakaway faction of the DKBA and the Karen National Union.
“They watch our moves. Moreover, they have come to us and said that we must stay out of any group or we will be punished or even killed.”
Saw Mu Hsoe said that among those sending threats was Myat Khaing, commander of the BGF Battalion 1016, who he said had previously warned his troops that any defectors to Na Khan Mway’s breakaway faction would forfeit all their belongings and that commanding officers could even be killed.
“Last month, nearly all of Company 3 of Myat Khaing’s battalion deserted to the KNLA with all of their weapons. In response, the company’s commander, Thein Shwe, was killed for not keeping his troops under control, and anyone connected to the deserting soldiers were disarmed.”
Lieutenant General Saw Paw Doh, commander of the Karen National Liberation Army Battalion 101, said earlier this month that the KNLA would welcome any BGF soldiers or officers who wished to defect.
The revolt of Na Khan Mway and his DKBA Brigade 5 from the BGF has created schisms within the formerly unified DKBA and has led to near-continuous skirmishes in Karen State over the last five months that have sent fresh waves of refugees to neighboring Thailand.