This is Karen Land…We Have the Right To Stay…

As fighting continues between the Burma Army and Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the government has come under fire from a senior Karen General for trying to “shut down the DKBA.”

Major General Nerdah Bo Mya, head of the Karen National Defence Organisation in an exclusive interview with Karen News said that the “Burma Army wanted the DKBA off the highway, they want the money and control over it.”

General Nerdah said that the “DKBA are Karen, it’s Karen land and they have the right to stay there. The Burma Army don’t have the right to tell Karen people what to do on their own land.”
General Nerdah told Karen News that the government troops had to learn to talk and share with ethnic people instead of resorting to military force.

“The Burma Army have the right to share, but not the right to take control and force the DKBA out – they have to learn negotiate not keep resorting to violence to try to get their way.”

General Nerdah said he saw little hope that the fighting would stop soon.
“The fighting will continue, unless the Burma Army are willing to share and to negotiate. If they try to kick the DKBA off their land it’s not a good sign for the on-going ‘peace-talks’ or building trust with ethnic people.”

From information from sources in the conflict areas, Karen News is led to understand that fighting has now spread to other areas of DKBA controlled territory – Kawkareik, Myawaddy and Hlaingbwe Township.
A mortar shell hit a school in Kawkareik 7:15am caused it to close. The DKBA denied the shell was theirs citing that its mortars did not have the capacity to fire that distance.

General Nerdah said that the conflict had the potential to escalate and to involve other ethnic armed groups.
“The DKBA are our brothers and if the Burma Army continues the fighting it will drag other Karen armed groups into the conflict. They [government] have to stop [fighting] if they want the peace process to continue.”

General Nerdah said it should not be difficult for international observers, to observe a pattern in what is happening in ethnic territories.
“The Burma Army is fighting in the north, using gunships, against the Kachin, the Kokang and the Shan and now they have moved their attacks down here in Karen State.”

General Nerdah responded to questions that the fighting in Karen State had nothing to do with security on the road.
“It’s nor about making the road safer. It’s about taking over Karen land, this is homeland, our territory, we have the right to be here.”

General Nerdah insisted to Karen News that the Karen did not want conflict.
“We don’t want to fight, but if they [Burma Army] keep violating the rights of the Karen we will respond. I want them to stop fighting, if not the KNDO will get involved.”

Fighting between government troops and soldiers from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army on the new Myawaddy – Kawkareik Asia Highway broke out on Thursday morning, on the 2nd July.

General Nerdah explained that the government had a strategy for Karen State and it did not have the best intentions for its people.
“They want to control all our natural resources, its part of an overall plan that has included land confiscation. Karen people have the right to control the road in Karen State, not the government or its armed forces.”

General Nerdah was insistent that the KNDO had the right to stand by the Karen.
“Our responsibility is to protect the rights of the Karen people, if there rights are violated, we have the rights to defend them.”

General Nerdah warned that if the Burma Army is, “fighting one Karen armed group it affects all our groups.”

General Nerdah urged the government to stop fighting and to get back to the peace process and “if they are genuine about wanting a democracy they need to start a genuine political dialogue, not keep using these divisive tactics to take attention off a lack of commitment to share power with the ethnic people.”

The Burma Army did not respond to phone calls from Karen News for this story.

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