The Karen National Union (KNU) which till 2012 fought one of many world’s longest-running insurgencies, is getting ready its fighters for assaults on a number of fronts, as hostilities with the army reignite following a Feb. 1 coup.
With Myanmar in turmoil, the KNU and several other different ethnic armies have sided with opponents of the junta, in line with Reuters interviews with representatives of three such teams and the ousted civilian authorities.
WHO ARE THE KNU?
The KNU is the dominant political organisation representing ethnic minority Karen communities in southwestern Karen State, formally recognized as Kayin State, bordering Thailand.
Their goal is self-determination for the Karen folks in a area of about 1.6 million folks, roughly the dimensions of Belgium, the place they’re the ethnic majority.
Marginalised in then Burma’s post-independence political course of, the KNU began a revolt in 1949, which it waged for almost 70 years. One of its key grievances was the Bamar ethnic group’s dominance of Myanmar’s state and army.
It generates income from gathering taxes, together with by unlawful border trades and from mining and different improvement tasks.
The KNU and its army wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) have traditionally been one of many greatest adversaries of the Tatmadaw, as the army is understood, and lengthy resisted ceasefire agreements.
Activists have accused Myanmar troopers of atrocities in opposition to the Karen, together with homicide, burning of villages, pressured labour, torture and systematic rape of ladies and ladies. The army has suffered many losses in battles with Karen guerrillas.
But after a quasi-civilian authorities initiated broad reforms in 2011, the KNU joined its Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, touted as step one in the direction of a federal system.
The NCA has largely stalled, nonetheless, with deep scepticism amongst ethnic armies concerning the Tatmadaw.
The KNU has accused the army of unhealthy religion by reinforcing troops and constructing defence installations in Karen territory, and of ceasefire violations that led to preventing.
Clashes in December displaced a number of thousand Karen and the KNU says troops have expanded to extra Karen territory because the coup, regardless of junta chief Min Aung Hlaing vowing to honour the ceasefire. The KNU has urged the world to sever ties with the junta and KNU leaders have instructed Reuters the truce is over.
On Saturday, the KNU mentioned its fighters had overrun a military command publish, killing 10 troopers. Military jets later launched air strikes on KNU territory for the primary time in 20 years.
EXODUS TO THAILAND
Thousands of Karen civilians have fled to Thailand, with many hiding in jungles. The KNU has urged Thailand to present sanctuary to its civilians if preventing intensifies, as it has performed prior to now.
There are conflicting accounts of Thailand’s place on the refugees, with some studies and witnesses saying they have been being blocked or despatched again, prompting rebukes from activists.
The authorities mentioned it has no coverage of turning away refugees and accepts them on a humanitarian foundation and refugees had returned to Myanmar voluntarily.
According to a plan seen by Reuters earlier this month, Thailand is bracing for a surge of refugees and has put aside areas for greater than 43,000 folks in its Mae Sot district.
The KNU says it’s responding to appeals for assist from coup opponents by sending fighters to guard protesters. Its troops are attacking Myanmar military positions and chopping off provide routes. In the north, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has launched comparable assaults.
Three different guerrilla forces, together with the Arakan Army within the western Rakhine state, have vowed to affix what they known as the “spring revolution” if the deadly crackdown on civilians continues.
Efforts are underway by remnants of the ousted authorities to create a joint resistance to the junta, together with an interim structure that would come with a “federal army” to exchange the army.
Despite having fewer troops and fewer firepower, by becoming a member of forces, the assorted ethnic armies may pose a major downside to a Tatmadaw preventing on a number of fronts.
However, with some ethnic teams preventing one another, together with these in Karen State and Shan States, an alliance appears much less probably.
The army has additionally mastered divide-and-rule techniques over the years and succeeded in creating fissures inside teams, whereas capitalising on their incapability to current a united entrance politically and militarily.