Army deserters surrender to Karen rebels

Feb 29, 2008 (DVB), Four Burmese soldiers who deserted from the government army surrendered themselves to the Karen National Liberation Army in a rebel-controlled area of Karen state on Tuesday, the KNLA said.

Sergeant San Htun Hla, sergeant Soe Thiha, private Kyaw Min Htun and signaller Thein Min Htike, from the coastal region Light Infantry Battalion 401’s Regiment 1, gave themselves up in territory held by Brigade 6 Battalion 17 of the KNLA, the armed wing of the Karen National Union.

They also handed over two MA-2, two MA-3 and one MA-4 assault rifles, 400 bullets and M-79 grenade-launchers, which they had brought with them, to the KNLA.

One of the soldiers said that they had deserted because of the constant harassment from their senior officers.

"There is harassment of soldiers by their senior officers on every level," said Thein Min Htike.

"We have to do hard labour, such as road construction and cultivation, to earn money for our superiors."

"They don’t just beat up and torture civilians , in fact, we are being treated the same way by our officers."

San Htun Hla urged other Burmese army soldiers who remain on the government’s side to do the same as they did and join hands with the opposition to end the military dictatorship in the country.

"The military government is only good for high-ranking officials. There is no hope for a lower-ranking soldier," said San Htun Hla.

"I would like to urge all our remaining comrades to leave the government’s side and unite with us to bring this government down."

The KNU secretary of Do Pala Rah district, Saw Lipton, welcomed the Burmese army deserters and promised the group would do their best to assist them in setting up their new life in opposition.

"They understood the wrongdoing of their army leaders and decided to switch sides to join with the oppressed people. We always have to welcome them," he said.

"We will now see what they want to do next and do our best to give them assistance in whatever they come up with."

According to KNLA records, a total of 15 Burmese army soldiers and 13 DKBA rebels joined with the KNLA in 2007, and so far in 2008, seven soldiers have fled the government army.

Reporting by Htet Yazar

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