CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Burma’s Border Guard Force (BGF) has detained five of its troops who are suspected of involvement in the killing of a Karen National Union (KNU) soldier, whose dead, handcuffed body was found in the Moei River in the Karen State border town of Myawaddy on Sept 21.
The move came after leaders from the KNU’s military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), contacted BGF unit 1022 and urged them to take action against the culprits who killed Saw Ta Noh, a private who belonged to KNLA Brigade 6.
“After KNLA Brigade 6 leaders contacted leaders of the BGF unit 1022, they arrested five soldiers and questioned them. They are now keeping the soldiers in custody,” said Maj Saw Zorro, liaison officer of the KNU in Myawaddy, a town in Burma’s Karen State that shares a border with Mae Sot in Thailand.
Saw Ta Noh went missing on Sept 16 when he was returning from Myawaddy District to his unit’s headquarters. KNU sources learned that he was killed at a checkpoint by BGF unit 1022.
“According to medical examinations [in Myawaddy hospital], two gunshots were found on his body. His throat was also cut,” said Maj Saw Zorro.
Saw Ta Noh became the second Karen soldier confirmed killed in the Myawaddy area this month after a drunken soldier belonging to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) was shot dead by Burmese Army and BGF troops on Sept 19.
After the latter soldier died, DKBA leaders demanded the government hand over those involved in the killing. Dah Blut of the DKBA told The Irrawaddy that his leader, Brig-Gen Kyaw Thet, said that the Burmese Army would lose ten men for every lost soldier who belonged to his armed group. However, Burma’s government is now trying to pay compensation to the DKBA for the dead soldier, said Dah Blut.
Myawaddy is a murky place where armed conflict, unexplained killings and other crimes are often reported. Several armed groups are active in the area, including the Burmese Army, police, and BGF troops as well as Karen armed groups—the DKBA, the KNU, the KNU/KNLA Peace Council, and the Klo Htoo Baw Karen Organization (KKO).
Many of the BGF units around Myawaddy are small, former Karen rebel groups who defected and were placed under Burma Army command after the then-junta government set an ultimatum in 2009 ordering rebels to become armed BGF units. Most of the larger rebel groups refused.
Recently, the Burmese Army’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 275 released an order warning all Karen armed groups not to wear uniforms or carry weapons while traveling in towns and cities as it might frighten civilians. The order, issued by a LIB 275 commander, said the military regalia and arms “disturbs the security of the civilians.”
The order, however, seemed unlikely to be heeded by Karen armed groups. Tensions between government forces and Karen armed groups in Myawaddy still simmer while they await directives from their respective leaders.
“You can never trust them [the Burma Army]. As a soldier, you have an enemy 24 hours. You need to be prepared to defend yourself,” said Dah Blut.