Myanmar Regime Accuses KNU of Providing Military Training to Anti-Junta Protesters

By The Irrawaddy 20 May 2021

The Myanmar regime has objected to the provision of military training by the country’s oldest ethnic armed group to protesters who have resolved to take up armed struggle to topple the junta.

Following the regime’s deadly crackdowns on pro-democracy protests on the streets across the country in March and April, a number of anti-regime protesters fled to areas controlled by ethnic armed groups on the border. They have received military training there from some ethnic armed groups who are against military rule in the country.

As of Wednesday, more than 800 people had been killed by the regime since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), which has been monitoring civilian casualties caused by the junta.

The exact number of the trainees on the border is unknown. But according to some media estimates there may be at least several hundred, including doctors and other young professionals.

On Tuesday, the regime’s governing body in Karen State in southern Myanmar sent a letter to the Karen National Union (KNU) and its armed wing’s liaison office.

The letter said the regime had learned that the KNU’s Brigades 1, 6 and 7 have provided military training to some people affiliated with the shadow National Unity Government, its parliamentary committee and its defense force in their areas of control. The regime has branded those groups as terrorist organizations.

“We object to the action as it’s found that the KNU is intentionally harming the government administrative machinery while breaching the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) [provisions on] ‘regional stability and rule of law,’” it said.

So far, the KNU hasn’t said it has been providing the training.

The KNU has been fighting for autonomy since Myanmar’s independence from the British in 1948. It signed the ceasefire agreement with the central government and the military in 2012.

Despite the agreement, one of its brigades has launched attacks against the regime’s troops near the Thai border as it is not happy with the coup. In the country’s north, another major ethnic armed group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has been waging war against the regime’s troops for a month as it opposes the coup and the regime’s deadly crackdowns on protesters. The regime has retaliated against both armed groups with airstrikes, leaving many civilians displaced from their homes.

The junta’s objection against the KNU follows last week’s arrest of 39 people who according to military-owned media are suspected of orchestrating explosions and arson attacks, as well as seeking military training with an ethnic minority rebel group. In the letter to the KNU, the regime said it had learned of the armed group’s involvement while interrogating the detainees.

A number of police stations, government schools and local administrative offices have been set on fire or bombed across the country while some regime-appointed local officials have been killed by unknown attackers.

While no one has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks, the junta said they were carried out by “rioters”, a military euphemism for anti-regime protesters.

The Irrawaddy has not been able to independently verify the regime’s claim.

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