One Karenni Activist Arrested, Five Wanted

By Htet Khaung Lin 4 June 2019

YANGON—Police on Sunday arrested one of the six wanted members of the Progressive Karenni People’s Force, who have been in dispute with the Kayah state government regarding the installation of a controversial statue of General Aung San in Loikaw, the state capital.

Police at Loikaw Myoma Police Station filed charges against the six activists under Article 10 of the Citizens Privacy and Security Law on May 17 for accusations they made against the Kayah State chief minister and for accusing those involved in installing the General Aung San statue of being political convicts, traitors of Karenni nationality and enemies of ethnic unity.

Days after police issued an arrest warrant notice describing the six as absconders of the law, Khu Kyu Peh Kay, 23, was detained at a police checkpoint near Hpruso Township, according to a member of the group, Khun Bernard.

“Last night he was detained at Loikaw Police Station and today the police sought remand from the Loikaw [Township] Court and sent him to Loikaw Prison right away,” Khun Bernard said on Monday. He said Khu Kyu Peh Kay will appear before the court on June 17.

The remaining five members, Pyar Lay, Myo Hlaing Win, Khun Thomas, Dee De and Khu Reedu, have not yet been arrested.

If convicted, they could face six months to three years in prison.

Ko Myo Hlaing Win said they would face the legal actions through correct means and are currently in consultation about the process. He denounced the Kayah State government’s issuing of an arrest warrant rather than an official court summons.

He said they have no affiliation with any political party or armed group, but that they work together on Kayah affairs.

This dispute between the state government and the Karenni youth should have been solved long ago so that this unnecessary action could be avoided, said U Phey Reh, Upper House lawmaker representing Kayah State’s Constituency 1.

“Both sides misunderstand each other as they have had difficulties in negotiating since the beginning and have not been able to progress from there. Bogyoke (General Aung San) is also our founding father. On the other hand, there are egos—the activists do what they want to do and the government also takes precedence with its power.”

Many other National League for Democracy (NLD) parliamentarians representing Kayah State have refused to comment on this issue. Speaking off the record, some said that the state government has handled the issue badly.

Discussions to resolve the dispute over the General Aung San statue collapsed on May 14 when State Chief Minister L Phaung Sho backtracked on saying the removal of the statue was a possibility.

In March, Karenni National Progressive Party spokesperson Nei Neh Plo said the dispute was a hindrance to discussions his armed group had been having with the government on signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

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