General Ner Dah Bo Mya, the head of the Karen National Defence Organisation told Karen News that armed conflict this month in Burma is linked to plans to build hydropower dams on the Salween River. In an exclusive interview General Ner Dah explains to Karen News why he has placed his troops are on high alert.
General Ner Dah said that fighting between the government’s militia, the Border guard Force and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) has sent warning signals to the Karen armed groups that the government is planning to reinforce it military in the region.
“The current situation that we have in our area right now is that we have to be alert because there are fighting between BGF and the DKBA. We have to be alert because we can see that the Burmese [army] are reinforcing their military in most of their base camps that are also close to our base camps.”
General Ner Dah said that his organization is aware that the government intends to clamp down on any opposition to its plans to build ‘development projects’ in Karen State.
“We got information that the reason the fighting between the DKBA and BGF is because of the dam project that is close to the Salween River. The Burmese [Government] got the money and they wanted to clear DKBA positions in those areas. They are using BGF troops and also supporting them behind to clear the area so that they can start the dam project.”
General Ner Dah pointed out that most Karen people were opposed to the construction of the dams, as they would not benefit.
“The hydropower project – the Karen civilian don’t support the dam project because most people feel that the dam project will only support the military government and the people will not be benefit from the mega project that [is] related to the dam.”
General Ner Dah said that the ceasefire and peace talks between the government and the Karen were not going anywhere.
“With the ceasefire talks, we are now facing a stalemate, we are stuck and we cannot go forward and at the same time we realize that it is very difficult to move in reverse because now it is not easy to reverse and at the same time we are kind of facing a stalemate and cannot go forward.”
General Ner Dah pointed out the government’s main focus was more on getting its hands on Karen resources and land than engaging with ethnic people in a genuine political dialogue.
“The government is only pushing for what they want and they don’t compromise. All they want is to control ethnic territory, to control our resources, to take over and to put everybody under their control. That’s a problem because all the ethnic groups want to maintain their identity, their culture and to have self-determination. They want to have their autonomous state that is controlled by the Karen people not by the Burmese people. That’s why it is related to the peace process.”
General Ner Dah was blunt in his assessment of the current peace negotiations.
“I am not very optimistic about it.”