YANGON — Five Karenni men are being sued for protesting against the Tatmadaw’s alleged execution two weeks ago of four people, including three Karenni soldiers, and ordered to appear at the Loikaw Township court in Kayah (Karenni) State on Friday.
The five, members of the Union of Karenni State Youth (UKSY) and the Karenni State Farmers Union, led the Dec. 22 protest against the alleged execution of three Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) soldiers and a civilian two days earlier.
About 15 people protested for about an hour in downtown Loikaw, rallying in front of the military’s Regional Operations Command, the state Parliament, the state government office and other locations, shouting slogans and condemning the Tatmadaw.
Loikaw Township police Captain Win Htay said the protesters had violated the Peaceful Assembly Law by failing to inform police of their plans 48 hours in advance.
“They should have informed us in accordance with Article 4 of the Peaceful Assembly Law so that we could help them clear the route and provide security and avoid any danger. Because they violated it, we have to sue them within 15 days of the day of the protest, so we did,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Dee De, one of the five protest leaders, said the police informed them of the lawsuit on Saturday but stood by their decision to demonstrate.
“The killing and burning of the bodies of the victims are war crimes,” Dee De said, calling it the worst case of murder by the military in the state since the country started on its democratic transition seven years ago.
The UKSY issued a statement on Sunday that labeled the deaths “murder” and called on the Tatmadaw and state government to find justice for the victims’ families.
UKSY Secretary Khun Bernard told The Irrawaddy that the state government and Tatmadaw, which is investigating the deaths, need to take responsibility for any crimes.
“We want a just resolution of the incident,” he said.
The KNPP claims the civilian and three KNPP soldiers were detained when troops from the Tatmadaw’s Regional Operations Commanded raided the KNPP’s camp in Loikaw on Dec. 20. It says the military executed them at the camp and burned their bodies back at their base. The military claims the four were killed in a firefight during the raid.
The KNPP accuses the Tatmadaw of violating the bilateral ceasefire agreement it signed with the government in 2012.
It called for a tribunal including international legal experts to investigate the case and take action against anyone found to have committed a crime.
The Tatmadaw’s internal tribunal team, led by Brigadier General Aung Khine Soe from the military’s Eastern Command, heard testimony from the KNPP and others last week.
The KNPP presented its version of events at a press conference in Loikaw on Sunday, including a recording from Maung Lar, a KNPP soldier whom the armed groups claims witnessed the executions, escaped, and was now at an undisclosed location for his safety.
KNPP Second Secretary Shwe Myo Thant said the incident jeopardized ongoing negotiations between his group and government over the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The KNPP is a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council, an alliance of armed groups yet to sign up to the deal.
“We have already said that we would follow the NCA path, but the negotiations are still going on,” he said. “It may look like the peace process is moving slowly. That’s mainly because we do not want to exchange what we want for our basic rights cheaply.”
He said the KNPP has shared its information on the deaths with the government’s peace negotiators, including the offices of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.