Monday, August 24, 2009

KNU Struggles to Acquire Arms

The Irrawaddy News

Despite being a major player in one of the longest-running civil wars in the world, the guerilla soldiers of the Karen National Union (KNU) are currently finding it difficult to acquire weapons of any description for their armed struggle against the Burmese military regime.

A commander of KNU’s military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), who asked to remain anonymous, said he is ready to buy weapons and has enough money to purchase what he needs, but he cannot find a broker who will sell to him.

“We have enough money,” he said. “We are in the market to buy dozens of assault rifles, preferable AK-47s, but it is proving hard to get them.

“We are careful with our old weapons and maintain them very well, so we can use them for a long time,” he said.

The KNLA produces some explosives, especially landmines; however, it is commonly believed that the Karen rebels do not have the capacity to produce high-grade weaponry, such as assault rifles, RPGs or mortars.

The KNLA commander said that the insurgents are able to pay for arms from the income they generate from local businesses, taxation and border trade with Thailand, including logging and the sale of gold and zinc.

He noted that the supply of arms has decreased greatly since the civil war ended in Cambodia and since the KNLA lost its base of Thai support.

The Times magazine in London reported in March that the KNU leadership was losing the support of the Thai government which it had previously been able to rely on for a supply of weapons.

Earlier this year, all KNLA commanders were asked to vacate Thai soil and return to areas under their control.

Founded in 1947, the KNU is the oldest rebel force in Burma and has been fighting for self-determination, autonomy and equality ever since the Burmese central government declared independence from Britain colonial rule in 1948.

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