Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Commander Col. Saw Chit Thu head of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) 999th Brigade held a lavish three day housewarming ceremony last week at his new mansion near the Burmese border city of Myawaddy in Karen state. The DKBA is the Burmese regime’s Karen paramilitary force and stands accused by human rights groups of committing numerous human rights abuses, drug trafficking and people smuggling.
The festivities included performances by Thai dancers, music concerts and ahnyeint, a Burmese traditional variety dance show with comedians. A soccer tournament also took place on the villa’s grounds.
“The invited monks preached sermons at 4 a.m. on March 24th. During the next three evenings, two Karen singers and two Burmese singers took turns signing.”, an officer from the 999th Brigade told Mizzima.
The officer, who wished to remain anonymous, estimated the total cost of the lavish ceremony at Ks. 100 million (approximately US $100,000).
Col. Saw Chit Thu’s massive villa has 10 bedrooms, guest bungalows and a swimming pool. The mansion also contains special rooms reserved for visiting monks.
The celebration of Col. Saw Chit Thu’s wealth and power was attended by local residents from Myawaddy and Burmese citizens from the nearby Thai border town of Mae Sot.
The DKBA has 3 brigades, 333, 555 and 999. Col Chit Thu, while not the DKBA’s most senior leader is believed to be the richest and most powerful member of the organization.
The DKBA originally formed as a junta supported breakaway faction that separated from the Karen National Union (KNU) in 1994. After signing an initial cease fire agreement with Burma’s military regime the DKBA were rewarded with lucrative timber and mining concession and given the right to levy “taxes” in territory under their control.
Many observers believe that the DKBA and its senior leaders have made huge sums of money from drug trafficking amphetamines and running brutal extortion rackets.
In May of last year the DKBA accepted the Burmese junta’s proposal to convert the ceasefire group into a ‘Border Guard Force’ (BGF).