The news of Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF) defection has been in the air for a few weeks but its officially declaration of joining the civil war fray from the side of the anti-junta Karenni forces was made public in a statement only on July 1, which tremendously delighted the people of Karenni (Kayah) State and beyond.
Addressing all the oppressed people of all races, living on mountains and plains, the statement said, “We, the KNPLF would like to officially let you know that we have again (starting) to attack the terrorist military clique, State Administration Council (SAC), in close proximity with you.”
“Our operational area is on the east of Salween River within the Karenni State of Taung Hla, Mae Ta Nwe, BP 14 and Mese. The battles and sounds of gunfire erupted on June 13 have officially opened up a KNPLF’s new historical chapter.”
“As all the revolutionary forces are fighting against the terrorist military SAC all over the mountains and plains in Burma, we would like to firmly inform you that we will decisively attack the terrorist military group SAC at the (Karenni) front that we are facing.”
“We KNPLF as an organization have set up the immediate, definitive goal to completely destroy ‘the military clique, military dictatorship system, military government, including the 2008 (military-drafted) Constitution’ and we are ready mentally and physically to forge mutual understanding, unity and through alliance-building, step-by-step, with any revolutionary organization from all over the (country) mountains and plains who are fighting against the terrorist SAC military group.”
The statement said depending on the given facts KNPLF sincerely wish from mutual understanding, cooperation, forging unity to formation of military alliance front with the revolutionary forces countrywide, cordially offering the invitation.
“Only when the military clique, military dictatorship system, military government and 2008 (military-drafted) Constitution could be completely wiped out, will we be able to lay good foundation for the building of federal union (or) genuine union through democracy, equality and rights of self-determination according to our aspirations.”
According to the statement, KNPLF broke away from Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) in 1978 due to ideological differences. In 1990 it was part of the multi-ethnic people’s democratic front headed by the now defunct Communist Party of Burma (CPB). In the era of 1988 democratic uprising it had worked closely with the Democratic Party for a New Society, Democratic People’s Army, and People’s Liberation Front. In 1991 it forged an alliance with the KNU and fought along side it in various battles. From 1994 to 13 June 2023 it was a Border Guard Force (BGF) under the military junta for nearly 30 years, due to the given unavoidable circumstances. But since the military coup in February 2021, it has been participating in the Spring Revolution discretely and openly in a variety of ways according to the given situation.
On the Christmas Eve of 2021 four KNPLF troopers, who were then BGF allied to the junta, was shot dead alongside at least 45 civilians when they tried to intervene with the junta soldiers not to kill the civilians.
KNPLF was said to have received weapons from the United Wa State Army (UWSA) after the military coup and has been involved in the resistance against the junta despite being a BFG. Chit Tun, a high ranking officer of KNPLF was also appointed as one of the two Deputy Ministers of Federal Union Affairs in the National Unity Government (NUG). Also some of its low ranking KNPLF members fought alongside Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) against the military junta.
The BGF 1004 and 1005 have now reverted to its original KNPLF fighting actively with the other Karenni alliance forces, with some 600 combined troops, according to the various news sources.
The Karenni ally forces are KNPP, KNPLF as of July 1 officially, KNDP, People’s Defence Forces (PDF) and Local Defence Forces (LDF) within the Karenni State. Outside the Karenni State the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 5, armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), is the ally of the Karenni forces.
Junta aircraft shot down
On June 30, a junta air plane was shot down by the KNPLF troops. However, the type of the aircraft still cannot be identified.
KNPLF officials on July 1 said that they were able to shoot down a plane belonging to the military council yesterday in Bawlakhe Township, Karenni State.
On June 30 morning, the plane that crashed on the banks of the Salween River, about one and a half miles away from the Ywathit Sub-township of Bawlakhe Township. However, the type of plane that crashed is still unknown, said KNPLF Joint Secretary Lawren Soe.
“We can confirm the shot down. But we can’t say the type yet. The battle was so fierce that we couldn’t get close. We will know only after the military council release the news,” he said.
The plane was shot down by the sniper guns they had. It is reported that the plane crashed and unable to rise up as it was shot at with sniper guns and two automatic rifles seized from the military council.
“We have no anti-aircraft weapons. They knew we had nothing (such as anti-aircraft guns), so when they got close, the children (KNPLF soldiers) couldn’t take it, so they pumped (the aircraft) with everything they have,” Lawren Soe said, according to the Myanmar Now recent report.
However, the pro-military lobby accounts have posted online that a K8 light fighter jet crashed in bad weather during an airstrike in Bawlakhe, killing two officers on board, wrote the same news source. But another news source Mizzima reported on July 4 that the two pilots on the crashed aircraft are still missing.
KNPLF in upbeat mood
The battles to overrun junta’s military camps started on June 13 which were able to capture 5 of them and also police station in Mese Town within the Mese Township and until now the junta troops are unable to retake them, according to the Myanmar Now report of July 1.
“Before the military coup Mese is a township. But now after the coup for the sake of holding the election (by the junta sometime in the near future) Kayah State is to have four districts and Mese become one of them. So Mese is now a district for them and we are in control of it. The junta won’t tolerate or accept that a revolutionary force has taken control of a district, which has not happen in the (Karenni) history, and will definitely try to get it back. Likewise, we will have to defend it hand-in-hand unitedly. It is our duty,” said KNPLF spokesman Lawren Soe.
“Now we have occupied a district and continuing with our struggle. We can even shot down their aircraft without having necessary weapons but with only what we have. This is the evidence (of our ability and determination). We are sure that they will want to retake the territories back and will use very means to achieve it. But all their offensives will be countered with the people’s power and with the collective revolutionary strength and we will crushed them,” he added, according to the Federal Journal report of July 1.
He went on to say that the KNPLF and the alliance partners won’t be satisfied with what have been achieved and would aim further to take over the Naypyitaw, the junta’s stronghold and capital, and end the military dictatorship system.
According to the KNPLF spokesman, the junta has only about a hundred or so troopers left that were airlifted for reinforcement in Mese Township and they are at the former 1004 BFG Battalion Base in Pan Tein, Mese Township, which he mentioned to the BBC in an interview very recently.
The KNPP, KNDP and National Unity Government (NUG) all welcome the KNPLF statement of openly declaring war on the junta and joining the Spring Revolution, vowing to work together with the KNPLF.
Looking at the unfolding political scenarios, one couldn’t help to come to the conclusion that the Karenni people and the organizations that represent them have been doing the right thing ever since the junta’s military coup in February 2021.
Apart from the heroic, bold, statewide rebellion and resistance of the Karenni people shortly after the junta’s military coup, which continue to these days, two most important scenarios unfolded within a month in 2023.
On June 6 Karenni State Interim Executive Council (IEC) was formed, according to the political leadership and policy guidelines of the Karenni State Consultative Council (KSCC) with six members. The IEC announced in a statement on June 12 that it will aim to install at least the top (12) departments for the state government and will make efforts with the three objective guidelines.
The said three objectives are to develop an interim state government administration with collective leadership; checks and balances of legislation, administration and judicial sectors; and to try bring stability and peace in the state by practically cooperating with various forces within the state.
On July 1, KNPLF came up with a statement to work in coalition with all Karenni resistance forces, to openly fight the military junta and uproot the military dictatorship. The statement emphasized on unity and alliance-building is the only way possible to win the fight and fulfil the aspirations of federal democratic union for the people.
It is remarkable that the two main Karenni resistance forces the KNPP and KNPLF agreed to bury the hatchet of nearly half a century old feud, due to the ideological differences and fight in unison against the military junta, according to the KNPLF spokesman Lawren Soe in any interview with the media. KNPLF was part of the KNPP before it broke away to form a new group decades ago.
While the KNPLF joining the civil war on the side of the Karenni resistance forces is a welcome move, some said it could also be an act of desperation to regain back its financial revenue sources through the Karenni-Thailand border trade. The KNPLF was well off financially before it became BGF in 2009 under the military junta, the knowledgeable source well-versed in Karenni politics said.
In the same vein, the junta army will not let go the lucrative trade without a fight, said the same seasoned observer.
Whatever the case, there were some speculation that other BGFs across the country might follow suit to join the Spring Revolution to get rid of the hated military junta and its system for good. But the likelihood that the BGFs will become selfless, politically aware and work for the achievement of the people’s aspirations may not be too high, if not impossible.