A colorful Democratic Karen Buddhist Army leader, Major General Na Kham Mwe, who is accused of drug running by Thai authorities, held a press conference at his headquarters on Thursday and blasted back, insisting he is not involved in drugs.
Thai authorities have asked Burma to assist in his arrest. A warrant for his arrest was issued by Thailand in 2003.
Surrounded by around 500 armed Karen soldiers, he said Thai authorities were welcome to inspect his camp opposite Tak’s Phop Phra District, and their safety would be guaranteed. About 100 reporters gathered to hear his remarks. The event was reportedly approved by the Burmese authorities.
The DKBA faction led by Na Kham Mwe broke away from the Karen National Union in 2010. It signed a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese government this year. Its troops are estimated to number around 1,500.
Defending himself, the general told reporters his income came from business ventures, concessions and taxes from trade gates under DKBA control.
Also known as “Colonel Moustache,” the general is listed fifth on Thailand's list of most-wanted drug dealers. He insisted he would never stand trial in a Thai court because he was a Karen with Burmese nationality, according to an article in The Bangkok Post.
Described as “furious” over the allegations, he retaliated by closing 12 border crossings in areas under DKBA control from Tak to Kanchanaburi Province.
He said he had done nothing wrong and wondered why the government brought up the drug case against him at the same time as he was preparing to hold peace talks with the Burmese government.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who head’s Thailand anti-drugs effort, leveled the charges against the general this week. He said the government is expecting a response soon to its request for help in securing his arrest.
Chalerm, who made his allegations and called for the general’s arrest on a television program, has been engaged in a running verbal duel with the general.
Continuing the exchange, Chalerm said, “Most minority groups have not sided with Na Kha Muay's men, which are made up of hundreds of troops, who could not flex [sufficient] muscle against the might of the Thai military. I'm not giving them [DKBA] any credit.”
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