Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)


dkba-5 flag


Founded: 8th November, 2010

Headquarters: Sonesee Myaing, Myawaddy Township in Karen State.

Active Territories: Kyarinseikgyi-Phayathonesu Valley in Hlaingbwe Township, Kawkareik Township and Myawaddy Township

Strength: Nearly 3000

Military Chief – General Saw Steel

Quartermaster General – Colonel Saw Sein Win

The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) signed a ceasefire at the state and union levels in November and December 2011. In 2015, the group signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on October 15th, with the U Thein Sein administration.

Although the DKBA participated in the peace process along with other ethnic armed groups under the NCA, clashes occurred in Hlaingbwe Township with the Border Guard Force (BGF), which is under the control of the Tatmadaw (military). On January 6th, 2018, clashes occurred between the DKBA and the Karen National Union (KNU).

The DKBA has not yet succeeded in establishing a military region. Fighting continues in the region, displacing thousands of people. The group adheres to the NCA in terms of its position on peace and its goals.

Following the February 2021 military coup, there were four days of fighting between the DKBA and the military junta troops. The group continues to work together as a member of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), although there have been changes in leadership within the organisation. A delegation led by the late DKBA Commander-in-Chief General Saw Mo Shay held an informal meeting with the junta’s National Solidarity and Peace-making Central Committee (NSPCC) in Nay Pyi Taw on April 26th, 2021.

On 23 September 2021, Lieutenant General Saw Steel, the DKBA Deputy Chief of Staff, was appointed to replace Commander-in-Chief General Saw Mo Shay, who died while receiving medical treatment on 21 July 2021. On 26 April 2022, more than 200 DKBA troops led by Bo Salone defected to the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) forces led by Brigadier General Saw Ner Dah Bo Mya under the Karen National Union (KNU). 69 At a meeting with the locals together with the military council force and the Border Guard Force (BGF) in Falugyi village in Myawaddy Township on 4 June 2022, General Saw Steel accused those involved in armed conflict in the Lay Kay Kaw area of waging war with financial support from Myanmar expats.70 On 3 August 2022, a meeting was held between some top leaders including Chief of Staff General Saw Johnny of the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) and DKBA Commander in Chief General Saw Steel. At the meeting, the both sides reached an agreement, including the issue of reunification. 71 At around 12 midnight on 6 September 2022, there was a drone bombing attack on General Saw Steel’s residence in the compound of Sone See Myaing camp. The organization which carried out the drone attack has yet to be confirmed. 72

Although there was a change in leadership within the organization, the DKBA continues to cooperate as a member of the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), as well as to hold informal meetings with the military council. It can be said that until now, there has been no connection between the DKBA and the Spring Revolution forces who are opposing the military council.

Clashes with the military council forces There were four clashes between the DKBA and the military council in 2021. However, there have been no battles in 2022 and 2023.


Ceasefires and Peace Process
3 rd EAO signing a ceasefire with the government
Step 1 – State-level ceasefire agreement (November 3, 2011)
Step 2 – Union – Level Ceasefire agreement (December 11, 2011)
Step 3 – Nationwide Ceasefire agreement (October, 15, 2015)

Fighting after ceasefire
2012 – 1
2013 – 4
2014 – 13
2015 – 40+
2016 – Unknown
2019 – 1
2020 – Nil
2021 – 4
2022 (March) – Nil

Head quarter Guard Forces – 904, 906, 908
Column 1 – Battalions – 907, 909, 910
Column 2 – Battalions – 901, 902, 903
Liaison Offices – Hpa An (Opened in November, 2011)
Myawaddy (Opened in November, 2011)
Kyainnseikkyi, Kyeik Done, Phayathonesu, Myaing Gyi Ngu (applied)

DKBA is a member of NCCT.

Ceasefire & Peace Process

3rd resistance group to sign ceasefire with government
Stage 1: State level ceasefire 3 Nov 2011
Stage 2: Union level ceasefire 11 Dec 2011
Stage 3: NCA Signed – 15 Oct 2015

Post-ceasefire Clashes:
2012: 1, 2013: 4, 2014: 13, 2015: 40+
2016: N/A

Military column 1: Btl 907, 909, 910
Brig. Gen. Saw Sein Myint
Strategic Commander Col. Saw Kyar Ni

Military column 2: Btl 901, 902, 903
Brig. Gen. Saw Ta Khu
Strategic commander Col. Saw Ba Nyein

Official delegation team: N/A


Liaison offices :

  • Hpa-an city (Nov 2011)
  • Myawaddy (Nov 2011)
  • Kyar-In-Seik-Gyi, Kyaikdon,
  • Three Pagoda Pass, Myain
  • Gyinngu (pending)



 #  Date  Location  Armed Group Rep  Govt Rep  Details
1 26/10/2011 Mottama, Thaton District, Mon state Brigadier General Moo Shay Thein Zaw Preliminary meeting
Maung Maung Thein, commander of the Southeast Regional Military Command and chief ministers of Karen and Mon states were also present
2 03/11/2011 Hpa-an, Karen state Brigadier General Moo Shay Col Aung Lwin Minister for Security and Border Affairs of Kayin state State level meeting, 5 point ceasefire agreement signed, both sides represented by 4 member delegation
3 11/12/2011 Hpa-an, Karen state Saw Lah Pwe, 6 member delegation Aung Thaung, 7 member delegation Signed Union level peace agreement
4 22/01/2013 Myawaddy, Karen state Saw Lah Pwe, 8 member delegation Aung Min, Gen Maung Maung Ohn + 9 others Agreement on 3 points: demarcation of control areas, open liaison offices, provide assistance to DKBA
5 04/05/2013 Kayin State government office in Hpaan Maj. Maung Lay Kayin State Security and Border Affairs Minister Aung Lwin To discuss recent fighting between the DKBA-5 and local BGF, however the issue was not resolved satisfactorily,and DKBA representative Maj. Maung Lay went to Naypyitaw to discuss matters with the central government official.
6 06/05/2013 Naypyidaw Maj. Maung Lay Aung Min Discuss fighting in Myaing Gyi Ngu. ways to how to avoid conflict in the future. The Minister [Aung Min] said he will present the results of our discussion to his superiors. If it is approved, he will come to Kayin [Karen] State as soon as possible to discuss matters with the Kayin State government, the BGF and ourselves. I think it will take a maximum of one week to solve the problem.” DKBA said it wanted to maintain the ceasefire agreement, and suggested that a liaison group be formed to mediate between the DKBA and other ceasefire groups.
7 11/05/2013 Sonesee Myaing in Myawaddy township, Karen state Gen. Saw Lah Pwe, Gen. Moe Shay, Brig. Gen. Kyaw Thet, Brig. Gen. Kyaw Beh from DKBA Dr. Min Zaw Oo and U Aung Naing Oo from MPC Dr. Zaw Oo and U Aung Naing Oo discussed with DKBA leaders. Then they also discussed with representatives from BGF. they collected the information resulted from the discussion and reported it to U Aung Min. the aim of this meeting is to solve the conflict between DKBA and BGF.
8 09/02/2014 Yangon DKBA- Gen Saw Lar Bwe Aung Main Goodwill
9 01/04/2014 Karen State Entrance DKBA – Col Saw Sann Aung Karen State Government and Police Forces/ Zaw Minn minister Informal meeting



  1. Temporary settlement of Kalo Htoo Baw armed group at the environs of Sonesee-myaing
  2. Cooperate with the government in regional development, and improvement of socio-economic status in Sukali region under existing laws, based temporarily in Sonesee Myaing region
  3. Settlement of members of Kalo Htoo Baw group and their families
  4. Fight against narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
    declared Myawaddy district as a drug-free zone on May 20, 2012
  5. DKBA and Local government open the village bridge in kawkarik township (May 24)


Feb. 19, 2012:A joint force of Myanmar army and border guard force (BGF) troops raided a DKBA military base. They allegedly seized a cache of weapons including AK-47s, AR-15 rifles and RPGs belonging to DKBA. (DKBA: 3 killed, 2 injured)


Dec 22, 2018 – DKBA released a statement regarding Tatmadaw’s statement

Oct 31, 2018 – DKBA released a statement regarding 30th Anniversary of ABSDF

Aug 01, 2017 – DKBA released a statement regarding Saw Nyi Nyi

Feb 04, 2017 – DKBA released a special statement

Aug 17, 2015 – KNU, DKBA, KNU/KNLA Peace Council, and RCSS released a joint statement on signing the NCA

Nov 2, 2014 – DKBA released a statement on KAF formation

Oct 30, 2014 – KAF formation statement released after the meeting

Oct 21, 2014 – DKBA discharged Lt. Col. Saw San Aung

Oct 13, 2014 – KAF Agreement in Burmese

Oct 13, 2014 – KAF Statement in Burmese

Oct 13, 2014 – KAF Statement in English

Feb 23, 2012 – DKBA threatened to void its cease-fire agreement with the government unless its arms are returned by the BGF that was responsible for the weapons seizure on Feb. 12, 2012.

Dec 27, 2012 – DKBA spokesperson Maj. San Aung said there will be no peace unless the military stops launching offensiveattacks against KIO.

Dec 15, 2012 – DKBA staged a protest in Myawaddy while bearing arms call on the government to apologize for their actions against Buddhist monks during the Letpandaung crackdown and to stop the offensive in Kachin state.

Jan 4, 2013 – DKBA issue a statement condemning government offensives in Kachin and northern Shan states (1) All ethnic people in Myanmar are our relation, the current government attacks to KIA, as like attach to us. We strongly object the launch an offensive to KIA. (2) Due to launch an offensive on KIA, we DKBA, and other Organizations and all civil have reduced trust on Government. if government continues to attack the KIA, Government will lose all recent ceasefire agreements.


The DKBA is working towards establishing closer relationships with the KNU and the KNU/KNLA Peace Council. The Karen groups met on March 6, 2012 to discuss rebuilding trust to strengthen the struggle for the Karen cause in accordance with the principles of Karen Martyr and revolutionary leader Saw Ba Oo Gyi.

Reference: Deciphering Myanmar’s Peace Process – A Reference Guide (2022 – 2023)


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