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God's Army

The Karen people number 2,000,000. In 1997 Myanmar's State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC (formerly known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC) crushed the Karen National Union, the mainstream rebel movement, which has been fighting for autonomy from the Myanmar government for some 50 years. God's Army is a breakaway group of the Karen National Union, believed to number between 100 and 200 battled-hardened veteran fighters, former university students and children. The small group receives arms from the Karen National Union, but operates independently from them.

The Army is headed by 12-year old twin brothers Johnny and Luther Htoo. Unlike most of the estimated 300,000 child combatants in Third World conflicts around the world, they rule their unit. Their fanatical followers believe the boys to be immune to bullets and mines. Like most Karens, God's Army are Christians in a predominantly Buddhist country. God's Army has been sheltering members of another splinter group, the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors, who took over the Myanmar [Burmese] Embassy in Bangkok in October 1999. God's Army is based at a camp in Ka Mar Pa Law, inside Myanmar opposite Thailand's Ratchaburi province, 95 kilometers (59 miles) west of Bangkok.

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Updated Monday, January 24, 2000 6:56:49 PM