Karen Rebels Refuse to Disband Police Force

By Lawi Weng 20 June 2014

RANGOON — The Karen National Union (KNU) is refusing government orders to disband its police force, a Karen leader says.

The government has accused the Karen National Police Force (KNPF), established under the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), of disturbing residents and travelers by collecting taxes and setting up checkpoints in Karen State and Tenasserim Division.

In a confidential letter sent to the KNU on June 4, the Tenasserim divisional government demanded that the Karen police force be disbanded before causing further confusion or problems. The letter accused the Karen police of unofficially operating in a government-controlled district of Dawei Township, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma news agency.

“Our police force will continue, now and in the future,” P’doh Saw Bee Ler, chairman of KNLA Brigade 4, based in Dawei District, told The Irrawaddy on Friday. “There is no nationwide ceasefire agreement yet.”

He said the KNLA told the divisional government why the Karen police force was necessary. “Our police force actively works for law enforcement and cracks down on illegal drugs,” he said.

The KNLA established its police force in 1991.

After the divisional government sent its order for the police force to be disbanded, about 80 troops from the government army attacked more than 10 KNLA soldiers in Dawei Township on June 14, leaving one man dead and raising concerns about the government’s commitment to a nationwide ceasefire.

The KNU signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the central government in 2012, after fighting for over five decades for greater autonomy.