Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Karen – Dter Nu Law Ma Ba Kha Tha Bah

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Karen, Non-interference

Dter Nu Law Ma Ba Kha Tha Bah

Relates to non-interference

The Karen concept of non-interference is defined literally according to the term for not doing anything to come between disagreeing sides. The term is generally used regardless of the situation:

– Dter Nu Law – Do not enter (or get)

– Ma Ba Kha Tha Bah – involved

This definition does not seem to have  arisen as a consequence of a political ploy, although on a number of occasions the KNU have purposely refrained from getting involved in political disagreements – the most notable being the Kachin split from the NDF. Here General Bo Mya, according to one senior KNU official, had purposely refrained from trying to discourage the Kachin from leaving.

The Western definition of the concept does not really apply to the Karen understanding, and they have not really attempted to instantiate such a stance either among themselves or with regards to other factions. That said however, it is interesting to note that the Karen National Union, as part of it ceasefire negotiations, insists on the recognition of the National League for Democracy as the people’s elected representatives and also insists on the release, from house arrest, of NLD General Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi. While this may be the general policy of the Burmese opposition it has never been an ethnic one.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army alternatively does not support this belief, interpreting the request as interference in Burmese state affairs in contrast to their own concerns relating to ethnic equality. At least one meeting held between the DKBA and the more moderate members of the Karen National Union has resulted in failure due to the KNU insistence of returning power to the NLD, releasing its leaders and freeing all political prisoners regardless of affiliations.

There appears to be a great divide between the two Karen sides, the pro-Junta DKBA and the KNU. The DKBA, a relatively new and perhaps politically immature faction, has had much closer relations with the Burmese junta and have adopted similar attitudes towards the west as far as interference in Burma’s affairs are concerned. Whether by choice or coercion the DKBA have spoken out on a number of issues they see as interference in Burmese affairs the most recent being the tabling, by the USA, of Burma on the agenda of the UNSC:

The declaration (1/2006) on the stance of the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Association (DKBA):

1. Due to the submission of the permanent US representative to the UN on 15 September 2006 that Myanmar posed a threat to regional stability and peace, a decision was made to put Myanmar on the agenda of the UNSC.
2. The DKBA assumes that the US by using the UN
(a) is deliberately and purposely plotting to undermine the nation since it is against Our Three Main National Causes: non-disintegration of the Union; non-disintegration of national solidarity; and perpetuation of sovereignty, in other words, the national policy.
(b) is attempting to delay and disturb the National Convention that is nearing successful completion. With the participation of all the mass and class organizations, the National Convention has been held in accord with the seven-point Road Map.
(c) is attempting to harm the stability and peace, the rule of law and democracy transition of the nation in addition to disturbing the building of a new modern developed nation.
3. We, the DKBA, have been witnessing regional peace, stability and development and enjoying the benefits as never before since we have joined hands with the Tatmadaw. As the entire Myanmar is also enjoying peace and stability practically, the situation in Myanmar will in no way threaten regional peace and stability.
4. The DKBA does not accept and objects and condemns the indirect attempts of the US, using the UN as a tool, to destabilize Myanmar and cause public hardships concerning basic needs and to encroach on the sovereignty of the country, a signatory to the UN Charter.

While such declarations are almost certainly scripted by the SPDC any actions taken against the SPDC will almost certainly impact on the DKBA, and the latter are therefore quite concerned about interference in Burmese affairs.

The KNU’s connection with the Burmese opposition forces since the 1988 demonstrations has redefined the Karen resistance movement’s objectives. Prior to the mass demonstrations of the late 80’s the KNU were distanced from the domestic issues facing the greater populace and concentrated solely on Karen independence.

With the arrival of students in Karen areas, the setting up of umbrella organisations like the ethnic/Burman National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), and KNU support for the exiled government of  Sein Win, the KNU have accepted the greater demands of the Burmese opposition movement. These demands, in turn, necessitate outside interference to achieve them, a policy which the KNU has openly welcomed.


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