Four soldiers belonging to the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) were allegedly executed at a Myanmar Army base in Loikaw Township on Dec. 20 after being detained during an army raid on their camp, according to a leader of the ethnic party.
“They were detained first, then executed,” said Khu Daniel, a central committee member of the KNPP, adding that a civilian who was seized along with the soldiers was also missing.
A local newspaper reported that the army had confirmed the deaths, although the Tatmadaw claimed the fatalities occurred during a gunfight.
Khu Daniel said the four soldiers had been manning a checkpoint in the Shadaw area on Dec. 19, when at about 5 p.m. they stopped a convoy of 10 Myanmar Army vehicles on its way back from transporting rations to their battalion. The Karenni Army soldiers found illegal timber hidden in the vehicles, but they did not make an issue of the illicit cargo and let the convoy pass.
At 9 p.m. that evening, Myanmar Army troops from the Regional Operations Command based in Loikaw raided the KNPP base, Khu Daniel said.
“When they raided our base, our troops did not fire at them. They did not do anything,” he said.
The Kantarawaddy Times, a Loikaw-based newspaper, reported on its website that a KNPP delegation had visited the army base were the executions were alleged to have taken place, but did not see any signs of fighting.
Residents in the neighborhood told the newspaper that they also did not hear any gunfire on the night of Dec. 19, before the soldiers were reportedly killed at 8 a.m. on the following day.
However, according to the newspaper, the Regional Operation Command told the KNPP delegation that the four soldiers were killed during a gunfight at the Loikaw base, and that the army had cremated their remains. It said the commander handed over four small bottles containing the ashes of the dead solders.
“The Tatmadaw, the chief minister, and the KNPP are still holding negotiations over the case,” Col Myint Wai from the Myanmar Army and Border Affairs Ministry in Karenni State was quoted as saying by the Kantarawaddy Times. He added that troop movements on the ground in the state were normal.
When asked how the KNPP would respond to the alleged killings, Khu Daniel said the incident would become a political issue, adding that his party’s leaders needed to discuss what to do next.
The KNPP signed a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government and the military in March 2012, but they have not yet inked the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The KNPP is a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and is involved in negotiations to sign the NCA.
“Everyone feels sad about this. It should not happen like this. If they were killed while fighting on the battlefield, let’s say that is okay. But it was not fair to arrest them and then kill them,” Khu Daniel said.
Maj-Gen Aye Lwin, deputy director of the Psychological Warfare and Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Defense, told The Irrawaddy he had not received any information from senior army officers about the alleged killings and had no comment to make about them.