An organization for ethnic militias that have not signed a peace pact with the Myanmar government called on Tuesday for an investigation into the killings of one civilian and three soldiers from an ethnic armed group by government soldiers during a raid of the ethnic militia’s base in the eastern part of Kayah state, fearing the incident could disrupt the country’s fragile peace process.
Myanmar Army soldiers detained and killed the civilian and three members of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) on Dec. 20 when they raided the Karenni Army base in Loikaw township, the KNPP said.
The KNPP, the political wing of the Karenni army, is among the groups comprising the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), the umbrella organization for ethnic militias that have not signed a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), which issued a statement calling for a probe of the killings.
On Dec. 19, Karenni troops checked Myanmar army vehicles transporting supplies to military border posts and found different kinds of timber on board, according to a statement issued by the armed ethnic group.
Though the KNPP soldiers allowed the vehicles to pass, Myanmar soldiers from the Regional Operation Command in Loikaw went to the Karenni Army base later that night and killed the four the following morning, the statement said.
Myanmar Army personnel took the bodies back to their base and later burned them, the ethnic group claimed, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.
The Myanmar Army’s Regional Operation Command issued a statement two days later, saying the incident began when military vehicles transporting supplies to a base were stopped by 15 KNPP members who found timber among the supplies, and that the four were killed during a firefight.
“I have been seeing both sides blaming and accusing each other,” said Tun Zaw, a member of the UNFC’s central executive committee.
“We have to solve this problem peacefully,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “The group that committed the crime should be brought to justice. The government army committed it.”
Tun Zaw called for the formation of an independent investigation team to conduct a transparent probe of the crime and ensure justice is rendered.
“If not, the trust between the two groups which we’ve forged during talks and the peace process will be damaged,” he said.
“At the very least the peace process will be delayed,” he said referring to a series of peace negotiations led by Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end decades of civil wars between armed ethnic groups and the Myanmar military.
“We have had those bad results in the past and still have them at present,” Tun Zaw said. “As long as we can’t resolve political problems through political means, we will have more bad results. We need a firm cease-fire in the country.”
“We have released this statement and called for investigation over killings because we don’t want more mistakes,” he said.
Call for an investigation
The KNPP’s statement also called for the Myanmar Army to begin an investigation and take action against the perpetrators.
A Karenni rebel who said he escaped after realizing he was about to be killed told the online journal The Irrawaddy that the Myanmar Army ordered the detained KNPP members to dress in Army uniforms and line up, saying they were going to be photographed, before executing them.
Khu Daniel, a KNPP central committee member, told the publications that his organization will hold a press conference soon to present the information it has about the murders.
A Myanmar Army statement published by a local newspaper said the KNPP threatened to torch army vehicles if its members discovered that the soldiers had continued to transport illegal timber, The Irrawaddy’s report said.
The Myanmar military also accused the KNPP of illegally collecting taxes from local people and building a base in an area it controlled in violation of a March 2012 cease-fire agreement, the report said.
Besides the KNPP, the UNFC includes the New Mon State Party (NMSP), Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), Arakan National Council (ANC), and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU).
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.