After being abused by a senior officer, Aung Ko Lat, 21, deserted from his Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 230 that was operating in Hlaingbwe Township in Karen State. Aung Ko Lat explained to Karen News that he deserted his unit on December 12, 2011 and turned himself in to the Karen National Union after alleged continue abuse by his Company Commander, Captain Win Htite.
“I was sick, but I had to do sentry duty. Then he [Captain Win Htite] caught me when I was sleeping during my sentry duty. He punched me and beat me. It was not the first time. I have been punched and beaten by him four or five time before – I couldn’t stand it anymore. I didn’t even want to be soldier anymore, that’s why I ran away.”
To verify his story, Aug Ko Lat offered Karen News his Burma Army Identity Number. Aung Ko Lat admitted that he stole 270,000 Kyat from Captain Win Htite pockets and used the money to make his the way to area under the control of the Karen National Liberation Army’s 7th Brigade.
Major Saw Eh Hser Hser, from the KNLA’s 7th Brigade office said they offer safety to deserters. “Depending on what he [Aung Ko Lat] wants. Our understanding is that he deserted because of abuses he suffered. He also said that he doesn’t want to hold a gun anymore. Aung Ko Lat said he wants to work as an ordinary civilian. It’s up to him; we will help him as much as we can.”
Aung Ko Lat confirmed with Karen News that he wants to get any available job.
Aung Ko Lat said he joined the army in September 2010 and attended military training at Ya Mae Thin Military Training School, Training No. 3 for four months before he was sent to join LIB 230. Then his battalion was sent to frontline in Hlaingbwe Township, Karen State. Before he deserted, he said he served seven months with his battalion at the frontline.
In August this year Private Maung Ye Htet 17, deserted from his Burma Army claiming that the Burma Army still had many child soldiers and it was common to see and hear of officers that abused subordinates.
According to KNLA 7th Brigade records there have been three Burma Army deserters in their area in 2011.