Democratic Karen Buddhist Army

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The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army formerly known as Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (Burmese: တိုးတက်သော ဗုဒ္ဓဘာသာ ကရင်အမျိုးသား တပ်ဖွဲ့; abbreviated DKBA) is a breakaway group of Buddhist former soldiers and officers of the predominantly Karen Christian led Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), one of the larger insurgent armies in Burma. Shortly after their breakaway in December 1994, the DKBA signed a ceasefire with the Myanmar government in exchange for military and financial assistance provided that it supported government offensives against the KNU.[1]

The Karen insurgency began with Burma's independence from the British in 1948 and is the longest running in Myanmar today. Though the majority of Karens are Buddhist, the Karen political leadership and leadership of the Karen insurgency have been overwhelmingly Christian, as a legacy of American missionary influence over the 19th and early 20th centuries. The DKBA breakaway was rooted in the perceived discrimination by the Christian leadership against local Buddhist Karen communities and the Buddhist Karen rank-and-file of the Karen insurgency KNLA.

The Burmese army was quick to exploit the breakaway and soon agreed to a ceasefire arrangement with the DKBA, who have since profited from various sanctioned business arrangements, at the expense of the KNLA who long dominated trade and revenue extraction in the area.

1990s and 2000s[edit]

The DKBA was formed for a variety of reasons. A Buddhist monk, U Thuzana, had started a campaign in 1992 of constructing pagodas all over Karen state including at the KNU headquarters at Manerplaw. As the KNU leadership would not grant permission for construction of the white-painted pagoda, claiming it would attract government air strikes, Thuzana then started to encourage KNU troops to leave the KNU. Following some skirmishes and failed negotiations in early December, the DKBA announced its formation and collective resignation from the KNU on 28 December 1994.[2]

Pado Mahn Shar, the secretary-general of the Karen National Union was shot dead in his home in Mae Sot, Thailand, on February 14, 2008. Many analysts claim that the assassination was possibly carried out by soldiers of the DKBA.[3][4][5]


The informal alliance between the Myanmar junta and the DKBA seemed to break down in the aftermath of the general election of 2010, when the DKBA clashed violently with junta troops. The violence caused a massive exodus of refugees across the border into Thailand, particularly through border crossings controlled by the DKBA. On November 12, Al-Jazeera English reported that the DKBA has joined forces with the Karen National Liberation Army, the two rebel armies forming an alliance, in advance of a possible crackdown by the military government.[6]

The break-down DKBA is managed by Bo Nat Khann Mway.

DKBA 5 Faction[edit]

The DKBA 5 is a faction of the DKBA led by Bo Nat Khann Mway AKA Saw Lah Pwe which broke away from the DKBA in 2010 and originally had five battalions under his command and later had three. ";[7][8][9][10] According to an Oct. 14, 2012 article in the Bangkok Post "Brigade 5 comprises about 1,500 of the KNLA's estimated 10,000 soldiers and is believed to be the strongest of the rebels' seven brigades." [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^, Uppsala Conflict Encyclopedia, Myanmar (Burma)
  2. ^, Uppsala Conflict Encyclopedia, Myanmar (Burma)
  3. ^ Radnofsky, Louise (2008-02-14). "Burmese rebel leader shot dead". London: Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  4. ^ "Burmese rebel leader is shot dead". BBC News. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  5. ^ Radnofsky, Louise (2008-02-14). "Burmese rebel leader shot dead". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  6. ^ "Myanmar rebel armies join forces". Al-Jazeera English. 2010-11-12. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  7. ^ Noreen, Naw (2010-11-07). "DKBA renegades seize border town". Democratic Voice of Burma. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  8. ^ Weng, Lawi (2010-11-08). "DKBA Troops Seize Three Pagodas Pass". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  9. ^ Wade, Francis (2010-08-03). "KNU general-secretary says Saw La Bwe may come home". Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  10. ^ "Burma attack 'a warning of possible civil war'" (Press release). Burma Campaign UK. 2010-11-08. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 

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