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An ethnic Karen rebel group has responded in kind to an order by the Burmese Army not to wear uniforms or carry firearms in certain government-controlled territory.
A Burmese Army commander allegedly issued an order on 14 September to several ethnic armed groups in the area, prohibiting rebel uniforms and weapons in the Thai-Burmese border town of Myawaddy, Karen State.
The KNU/KNLA Peace Council (KPC), a splinter group of the region’s dominant Karen National Union (KNU), responded to the order by issuing a letter to the commander stating that Burmese troops are now likewise forbidden to enter KPC territories with uniforms or firearms.
“The Burmese Army told us not to carry weapons or wear uniforms in their territories, so we issued the same restrictions against their troops,” said KPC information officer Saw Min Win.
The original order from the Burmese Army was reportedly sent to the KPC, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and another small armed group, the Klohtoobaw Karen Organisation, which was a splinter group formed out of the DKBA.
A member of the KNU has denied receipt of the order, but told reporters earlier this week that they do not regularly wear uniforms or carry firearms in the town.
According to the KPC, the order also required the armed groups to give prior notice to the Burmese Army if they must enter the town “for urgent reasons”. The number of troops, weapons and vehicles must be disclosed in advance, the KPC officer said.
Saw Min Win said that the issue will be on the agenda during upcoming talks between ethnic and government peace negotiators, scheduled to take place on 22 September in Rangoon.
The KPC, a small ethnic armed group established in 2007 by former members of the KNU, signed a fresh peace pact with the government in February 2012. The group is a member of the ethnic peace negotiation bloc, Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, but is not represented on the ethnic political alliance United Nationalities Federation Council.