The Karen National Union (KNU) has dismissed claims made by Myanmar’s ruling military council that it is training anti-regime forces in territory under its control.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the junta accused the ethnic armed group of training members of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) formed by the shadow National Unity Government (NUG).
“Wasn’t the PDF announced in May? And aren’t these groups being formed separately in different townships? How could we train them? There is no training,” Padoh Saw Hla Tun, the KNU’s secretary-general 2, said in response to the statement.
Citing information extracted from detainees, regime authorities in Kayah State said the PDF was receiving military training in territory under the control of KNU brigades 1, 2 and 7.
Speaking to Myanmar Now on Thursday, Padoh Saw Hla Tun said the regime appeared to be “mixed up” about who was behind the training program for PDF volunteers.
“I read about it in the news recently. There’s a captain, or a major, who defected. He’s the one giving the training. The military council has it all mixed up,” he said.
The statement released on Tuesday was “completely inaccurate,” he added.
Major Hein Thaw Oo, who defected from the Myanmar army’s notorious Light Infantry Battalion 99 in late March, began a basic training program for young volunteers at an undisclosed location earlier this month.
The junta also called the alleged KNU training program a violation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, even though the two sides have clashed repeatedly since the beginning of the year.
Hostilities have intensified since the February 1 coup, with the Myanmar military carrying out airstrikes on ethnic Karen villages in March and April in retaliation for attacks on its bases.
More than 12,000 civilians have been forced to flee the military’s offensives, according to a KNU statement released on April 2.
The NUG, which was officially formed in mid-April by members of the ousted civilian government, has been in talks with a number of ethnic armed groups to discuss its proposed creation of a federal army.
On May 5, the NUG announced that it had formed the PDF as a first step toward ultimately realizing its goal of replacing the current military structure.
The emergence of a Federal Union Army would end the suffering inflicted on civilians by half a century of military rule and more than seven decades of civil war, the NUG stated.
Since the announcement earlier this month, a number of local resistance groups have refashioned themselves as PDFs in a show of support for the NUG’s political vision.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group, the current dictatorship has murdered 807 civilians, including children, since seizing power.