Anti-junta police force formed in Karenni State by striking police officials

An anti-junta police force was formed by hundreds of striking police officers based in Kayah (Karenni) State on Wednesday under the leadership of a regional consultative council. 

The Karenni State Police (KSP) consists of 320 police who defected from the military’s home affairs ministry after the February 1 coup, the Karenni State Consultative Council announced in a statement.

Formed in April following deadly crackdowns on protesters by the coup regime’s armed forces, the council is comprised of elected lawmakers and representatives of political parties, ethnic armed organisations and civil society groups.

Overseen by state-based anti-dictatorship groups, the police force is the first of its kind to form since military chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power from the elected civilian government on February 1. 

“We will be responsible for law enforcement. But for the time being, we will mainly focus on the security of the people,” a KSP spokesperson told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity.

“Our short term responsibility will be to help displaced locals and to provide security for those within our territory,” he added. 

Some members of the KSP will join the armed struggle against the military dictatorship, but representatives say that the institutional goal is to create a different type of police force than the one that has long served military interests in Myanmar. 

“As a long term vision, we aim to make it a model police force for others in the country,” he said.

The KSP will operate at the township, district and state levels, with the highest attainable ranks for officers being police colonel and lieutenant colonel. 

In addition to the seven townships in Kayah State delineated by Myanmar’s previous governments, the KSP territory will include Pekon Township in southern Shan State, where there is a high ethnic Karenni population concentration. 

More than 200 police officers—the majority of those based in the Karenni region under the previous administration—refused to serve the coup regime after the military takeover and defected from the force in February and March in accordance with the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).

In addition to the striking police officials from within the region, some members of the newly-formed anti-junta police force are ethnic Karenni officers who had served in other parts of the country.

“Most of them are natives of Karenni state. For me, I served in Bago Region but returned here after I joined the CDM. Some of them served in Yangon. Only a handful of them are from other regions and not from here,” the police spokesperson said.

Karenni State is one of the first regions where resistance fighters took up arms against the military, seizing several police and military outposts in targeted attacks

The military—which suffered heavy casualties—launched major offensives in the region, including airstrikes. More than 100,000 locals have been displaced by the fighting, according to local estimates. 

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