Email This Story :
Feb 12, 2010 (DVB)-The Burmese junta’s recent claim that the opposition Karen army had abducted four local villagers is part of an intensifying propaganda campaign, a senior Karen official has said.
The accusations were an attempt to "manipulate the truth" about the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)’s policy of taxing local villagers, said Saw Hla Ngwe, joint secretary of the army’s political wing, the Karen National Union.
An article in the junta mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper yesterday claimed that KNLA troops had abducted four villagers on 6 February who had "failed to provide extortion money to them for 2009".
It continued that the soldiers had arrived at Patkyaw village in central Karen state with assault rifles and demanded five million kyat ($US5000) from the villagers.
Saw Hla Ngwe said however that the KNU’s policy was "not so poor as to kidnap people for money", and that the group would not have survived its 60-year conflict with the Burmese army without support from the Karen people.
"We assume that [the junta] was manipulating the facts about villagers paying their tax without getting into danger, and using media to say that we are kidnapping people for money," he said.
On accusations however that the KNLA had used villagers as "escorts", or porters, in warzones, he said tactic was regrettable, but "unavoidable".
Observers claim the line between civilian and solider in areas of Karen state under KNLA control is blurred, with many opting to join in reaction to widespread human rights abuses against the Karen by the Burmese military, and its proxy, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
The KNLA is thought to number more than 10,000, although the group was significantly weakened last year following several major offensives by the Burmese army.
Reporting by Naw Noreen