Six troops belonging to a Karen ceasefire army that were captured last week in raid by Burmese soldiers are rumoured to have been executed.
The men from the KNU/KNLA Peace Council had been manning an outpost close to Myawaddy in eastern Burma on 30 November when they came under attack. One soldier was killed by a bullet to the head, while six others were taken hostage.
General Htein Maung, head of the 2,000-strong Peace Council, said that the attack on the Hpalu outpost which the group had held for nearly three years came “out of the blue”.
“Our troops were confused and they weren’t sure whether to shoot back or not,” he said, adding that the six were captured along with their equipment. “We heard [Thursday] that all six have been executed.”
Another senior Peace Council official, The Htee, told DVB that the junta’s Military Affairs Security (MAS) office in Myawaddy had “promised to release” the six, but later reneged. When DVB contacted the office, staff there denied any knowledge of them.
A 2007 ceasefire agreement between the Peace Council, which is comprised of breakaway members of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), now appears to be in tatters.
The Peace Council has in recent weeks been fighting alongside a renegade faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) against the Burmese junta. Burmese troops are hunting DKBA commander Na Kham Mwe, who refused demands to transform into a junta-backed border army and is now believed to be in eastern Karen state, close to the border with Thailand.
Htein Maung described the attack on the outpost as “an insult”, saying that he signed the ceasefire agreement with the junta “simply because we didn’t want any more fighting”.
The incident comes nearly a month after heavy fighting broke out in the Myawaddy region which pushed up to 20,000 refugees into Thailand. Na Kham Mwe’s faction had taken key government positions in Myawaddy, and further south in Payathonzu, before an assault by Burmese troops forced them to withdraw.
Fighting has continued since 8 November and refugees have moved back and forth across the border, with some alleging that the Thai army had refused them sanctuary on the Thai side of the border.