The arrest of two Karen soldiers by the government’s military has added to tension created by a series of recent bomb explosions in Burma.
The two arrested Karen National Liberation Army soldiers have just been released after being detained by the Burma Army for nine days said that there is a need for clear guidelines on how both sides operate and to prevent misunderstandings.
The two soldiers were arrested by the Burma Army while on checkpoint duty earlier in October insist that the current ceasefire with the government need easy-to-follow rules and clearly defined territory to stop such incidents happening again.
Saw Aung Ko Latt and Saw Nay Blu from the KNLA’s Brigade 2, were arrested by the Burma Army under the Southern Military Command on October 1. The KNLA soldiers had set up a checkpoint to collect taxes in an area under the control of the Karen National Union’s Thandaung Township office.
Saw Nay Blu, one of the released KNLA soldier said.
“During the ceasefire period, it is really important for our leaders to negotiate for a clear position on our controlled territory in order for us to carry out our administration works, within our controlled territory and without interference from the government.”
Following their arrested, Saw Aung Ko Latt and Saw Nay Blu were handed over to Taungoo No. 3 Police Station, and charged in relation to looting and robbery.
Saw Aung Ko Latt said he refuted all of the accusations and charges.
“We officially had orders and permission [from KNU] to set up a checkpoint to collect taxes on local products as set down by KNU policy. The KNU Township and District officials also wanted us to prevent and stop drug trafficking into our area.”
Following high-level negotiations between the KNU and the government, Saw Aung Ko Latt and Saw Nay Blu were released after spending nine days in detention.
Padoh Saw Eh Wah, the KNU Taungoo district chairperson said that earlier in August, KNU officials in the Taungoo area officially informed the relevant government authorities – the Southern Military Command, Forestry Department and other administration departments about that the KNU would be collecting taxes at its checkpoints.
Padoh Saw Eh Wah also agreed with the two soldiers that there is an urgent need for clearly defined territory.
“They [Burma army] shouldn’t disturb or intervene in what we do according to our policy. If we want to prevent problems, we should have a clear line of territory to show each sides areas.”
Saw Aung Ko Latt and Saw Nay Blu stressed that during the peace building process, such actions as their arrests are not constructive and called for the government to be genuine in the peace process and to treat ceasefire groups as equals.
The two soldiers insisted the KNU leaders urgently complete negotiations with the government on a ceasefire-code-of conduct and to make sure the government does not keep interfering in its administration duties.