RANGOON — The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) leadership has decided to withdraw its troops from Shadaw Township, Karenni State, which had been sent out to drum up popular support but instead provoked the Burma Army’s ire.
The KNPP Central Committee decided to pull back its soldiers in response to public concern, after tensions arose between local Burma Army troops and armed KNPP members who were mobilizing in the area.
“Locals are concerned about the situation,” Aung San Myint, the KNPP secretary, told The Irrawaddy. “So we discussed it at the Central Committee and will withdraw our troops to show our respect for the people.”
With the Karenni State government and the Burma Army objecting earlier this month to fully armed KNPP members mobilizing public support in Shadaw Township, the KNPP made an unsuccessful attempt on Wednesday to negotiate an agreement with the state’s security and border affairs minister. With the talks breaking down, KNPP leaders decided to withdraw their troops.
KNPP General Secretary Shwe Myo Thant quoted local authorities as saying at the meeting that the military had barred the KNPP troops out of fear that they might leave the state to assist the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in northeast Burma, where the government is currently battling the ethnic Kokang rebel group.
Shwe Myo Thant told The Irrawaddy: “Fighting in Laukkai is still far from ending. [The government army put the ban in place] to prevent us from going to Laukkai [in Kokang Special Region]. They think we are applying military tactics. We explained to them that it was not like that, but they did not listen.”
The KNPP proposed that the 200 KNPP soldiers it had mobilized would be divided into three groups if the government did not want them to move about Shadaw Township in a large column. The government, however, demanded that KNPP members be unarmed, saying that only security personnel escorting senior KNPP leaders would be allowed to carry guns.
The KNPP senior leadership is due to meet again soon to discuss the restrictions.
Hla Maung Shwe, senior advisor with the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), told The Irrawaddy: “I don’t know whether or not [the government] bars [KNPP] for fear that they would go and support the Kokang. They want to go to dozens of villages to mobilize support and they also want to wear uniforms and carry arms. So, it is difficult for the government to allow them to do so, I think.”
The KNPP is a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) as well as a member of Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which is currently negotiating a proposed nationwide ceasefire with the government.
The Karenni armed group signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government in June 2012.