The Karen State Security and Border Affairs Ministry has reprimanded the Karen National Union (KNU) for sending a medical team to the town of Thandaung to provide free health care without first receiving permission.
In a letter sent to the armed group’s liaison office in Hpa-an on 27 October, Col. Aung Lwin, the minister for security and border affairs, said that in future the KNU should inform the government of any plans to carry out such activities.
On 25 October, a 10-member team led by Dr. Nay Sae arrived in the town to give residents free eye treatment. Following an opening ceremony at the Pay Way Lay Baptist Church, the team treated 73 patients over the next three days.
Myo Zaw Aung, the town’s administrative officer, said that he was not informed of the team’s plans in advance.
“Any organisation or NGO must report to the government administration office to let us know what they are doing. However, they [the KNU] only informed me verbally when they were coming, and didn’t tell me who would be there or where they were going,” he said.
“I didn’t know exactly when and how they would treat people. The main thing is we can give a hand if they need help,” he added.
However, Saw Shee Sho, the responsible officer at the KNU liaison office, told DVB that the group didn’t send Nay Sae, and doesn’t even know who he is.
“The government might think [this medical team] is from the KNU, but actually, it was not the KNU who sent them. It seems the team might have been be a non-governmental organisation,” he said.
He added that the KNU’s health department would respond to the government after it investigates what happened.
The KNU signed a ceasefire with the government in 2012 and was removed from a list of unlawful organisations in 2015.