‘I Will Stop Fighting My Fellow Karen’: Chit Thu

At a ceremony to honor fallen comrades on Saturday, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) commander Col Chit Thu vowed: “I will stop fighting my fellow Karen.”

Chit Thu made the remark in front of about 10,000 people at the ceremony held in Shwe Koko, the headquarters of the DKBA’s special battalion 999, in Karen State. Chit Thu is the commander of the DKBA Brigade 999.

The event was organized to pay respect to DKBA soldiers who died in battles between the DKBA and its mother organization, the Karen National Union (KNU). The DKBA split from the KNU and signed a cease-fire with the Burmese regime in 1995.

U Mahn, a Karen guest speaker at the event, said, “It is not a happy day for us. In fact, it is a sad day because we are remembering the men who died at the hands of our fellow Karen.

“Our people will only die if we continue to fight against each other. Nobody will come and help us,” he added.

During the ceremony, U Mahn said he also visited the graves where some 300 DKBA soldiers were buried. After visiting the cemetery, he said, “The soldiers in the graves in front of us were not the victims of wars against the Japanese or British. They were killed by their fellow Karen.

“It is time for us to stop killing each other and be united,” he said.

The KNU welcomed the statement made by the DKBA commander, but a representative of the Karen rebel KNU army said they still doubted the DKBA while it is under the control of the Burmese military regime.

Maj Hla Ngwe, the joint secretary 1 of the KNU, said, “It is a good sign. We welcomed the statement.”

He said that they would have to “wait and see” as to what would be the outcome of Chit Thu’s remarks as there are different opinions among DKBA members—some are reportedly willing to reconcile with the KNU while others want to maintain the group’s relationship with the regime.

DKBA is one of the strongest cease-fire groups in Burma, but is being coerced by Naypyidaw to transfer its soldiers to a Burmese army-led border guard force. The DKBA reportedly has 6,000 armed fighters.

“I am unhappy to see that my Karen soldiers are getting killed during battles between Karen and Karen,” Col Chit Thu said, according to a source who attended the ceremony. Chit Thu is widely believed to be the most influential man in both the DKBA administration and its military wing.

Observers, however, said that reconciliation between the DKBA and KNU is still some way off as the key DKBA leaders are controlled and commanded by the junta. Some have good relations with the regime while others profit by doing business and border trade.

Many Karen sources said that the attacks on KNU’s Brigade 7 in June 2009 were planned by Chit Thu with the aim of opening an area to build an “economic zone” after the battle was won. The offensive forced about 4,000 Karen villagers to take refuge in Tha Song Yang District in Thailand’s Tak Province.

DKBA sources said that Chit Thu owns several large businesses, including logging and gold mining, and a trade in motor vehicles from overseas. He regularly flies to countries such as Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong to facilitate his car importing business, the sources said.
In October 2009, a DKBA delegation led by influential Buddhist monk U Thuzana met with a group of KNU leaders in order to mediate a cease-fire between the two groups. No agreement was reached but both parties agreed to further talks.
Some sources said rumors had circulated that U Thuzana was threatened by Burmese officials following the talks, while others claimed the regime was behind the negotiations.
http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=18825

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