Ethnic Karen Armed Group in Myanmar to Abide by Ceasefire Agreement

By The Irrawaddy 10 June 2021

The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) chief of staff Saw Johnny has said that he will follow the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) framework to the letter.

The KNLA is the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the most powerful ethnic armed groups in Myanmar, which signed the NCA with U Thein Sein’s government in 2015.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Saw Johnny said that he would follow the guidelines of KNU General Saw Mutu Sae Poe, who in a May 10 public statement urged stakeholders to solve political problems through dialogue.

The KNU chairman’s statement came after the military launched airstrikes on civilians from late March to early May in retaliation for attacks on military outposts by the KNLA’s Brigade 5.

“I am saddened to see efforts to solve political problems arising in 2021 by taking up arms. Political problems need to be solved by political means, which is negotiation,” said Gen. Saw Mutu Sae Poe.

His statement prompted mixed reactions, including strong criticism from Karen communities. The KNLA’s Brigade 5 told The Irrawaddy that it viewed the general’s statement as the personal opinion of a leader but not an order, saying that it would continue to do what it is supposed to do.

Now, a month after the KNU chairman issued his controversial statement, the KNLA chief has said the armed wing of the KNU will strictly follow the NCA and urged his troops to exercise strict military discipline.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact a KNLA spokesperson for a comment on Saw Johnny’s statement.

“The letter is intended to enforce discipline on KNLA troops and ensure that they obey orders from headquarters,” said an officer from the KNU headquarters.

KNLA Brigade 5 has been clashing with junta security forces in Karen State’s Papun District since March and military tensions are running high in the area.

On June 5, the Karen National Defense Organization, which is under the command of the KNU, attacked junta troops in the border town of Myawaddy, along with the Myawaddy People’s Defense Force and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

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