Burmese troops kill DKBA deserter

Aug 17, 2009 (DVB), A deserter from a pro-junta militia wanted for the killing of two government soldiers was last week shot dead by Burmese troops and members of his former group.

A former lieutenant in the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), Saw Pha-Htaw (also-known-as Ashaygyi) had been on the run since his desertion on 10 August following an argument with a senior official, Aung Chit.

Following the argument, he opened fire on two soldiers from the government's Military Operation Command 12, and two local policemen, killing all four.

According to DKBA official, three days later DKBA troops stopped a Rangoon-bound bus in eastern Burma that he was riding on and a gun battle broke out.

"After four or five shots were fired into the truck, Ashaygyi, apparently worried that passengers might get caught in the crossfire, came out of the bus carrying a pistol and two grenades," said the official. "He was shot dead on the spot."

An associate of Ashaygyi was also shot and seriously wounded after attempting to flee the battle, while a 30-year-old pregnant woman was hit by a stray bullet and killed. One DKBA troop and one Burmese army soldier were also killed.

The DKBA official said the group had made contact with the woman's husband in Bangkok, offering an apology and compensation for her death, but no response had yet been received.

"We kept her body in Kawkerit for three days and made contact with her husband," he said.

"We told him to come here so we can explain to him what happened and give compensation but he never replied," he said.

A funeral for Ashaygyi was held on Saturday.

DKBA troops and government soldiers had recently allied in an offensive against the opposition Karen National Union (KNU), which caused around 4000 Karen civilians to flee into neighbouring Thailand.

The DKBA split from the KNU in 1994 and have since enjoyed a ceasefire agreement and close association with the ruling junta.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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