Three senior legal officers from the Myanmar Army met leaders of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) at the Regional Operations Command in Loikaw yesterday to hear testimony about the alleged murder of four people, including three Karenni soldiers, by a Myanmar Army unit two weeks ago.
Gen Aung Khine Soe and two other army officers from the Army Tribunal Court in Naypyitaw met a group of four KNPP leaders, said Khu Nyay Reh, one of the senior KNPP officials at the meeting.
“I told them that there was no fighting. Our troops did not even resist when they came to raid our base. But they arrested them and murdered them,” Khu Nyay Reh said, recounting his testimony.
He said the Mynmar Army officials had promised to present the information to their seniors.
“They told us to tell all the truth about the incident, and that they would submit this testimony to their superiors. Then, their leaders would decide what to do with it,” Khu Nyay Reh said.
In the wake of the killings, the KNPP asked the government and army to form an investigation commission to look into the incident. The army has denied allegations by the KNPP that the four were executed. In a statement released earlier this week, it said they were killed during a firefight between the two sides following a dispute over illegal timber.
According to a witness, a KNPP official named Maung Lar, the four men were gunned down on the morning of Dec. 20. The army soldiers had told them to line up for a photo, but instead shot them. Maung Lar fled as the soldiers were preparing to shoot. Maung Lar said the Myanmar soldiers were from Infantry Battalion 54, which is under the control of the Regional Operations Command in Loikaw.
The KNPP is currently holding meetings to discuss the formation of the investigation commission and who should participate in it.
The ethnic group signed a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government and the military in March 2012, but has not yet inked the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The KNPP is a member of the UNFC and is involved in negotiations to sign the ceasefire deal.
However, this incident has caused the KNPP to lose trust in the Myanmar Army and it was now reluctant to sign the NCA, said U Shwe Myo Thant, secretary No. 2 of the KNPP.
“We discussed the NCA within our party. But we did not get a signal to sign it anytime soon. Our leaders have lost trust in them [the Myanmar Army], and they have not done anything to restore our confidence. Instead, they have just done things to make us lose faith in them. Therefore, it will be more difficult to convince our leaders to sign the NCA,” U Shwe Myo Thant said.