KNU to ‘take action’ against perpetrators following murder of resistance officers from Pakokku

The Karen National Union (KNU) has vowed to hold members of one of its armed wings accountable after they were accused of killing three men from central Myanmar who were purchasing firearms in Karen State for the resistance at the time of their murder. 

The slain officers, Ye Din, Pyinnyar Sarya, and another unidentified individual bought the weapons in Kawkareik Township—which falls under the KNU’s Brigade 6 territory—before they were reportedly murdered by members of the Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) in Hparkya village on October 22. 

The alleged perpetrators are accused of seizing 30 assault rifles and three pistols from the deceased, who were planning to return to Magway Region’s Pakokku District to distribute the weapons to defence forces fighting the junta. 

KNU secretary for Brigade 6, Padoh Saw Liston, told Myanmar Now on Friday that an investigation into the incident was underway and that four members of the KNDO’s Battalion 6 were in KNU custody, including deputy intelligence officer Htay Win. 

“The perpetrators are being detained and interrogated. We will take effective action as per the law,” he said, adding that it was “impossible” to issue further statements at this time. 

Among those summoned as witnesses was the commander of the KNDO battalion in question as well as residents of Hparkya and other nearby villages.

“This is a major blow to the KNU’s political integrity and the revolution,” Padoh Saw Liston said. 

Bodies of the three men killed in Kawkareik Township after purchasing firearms (Supplied)

The KNU has been attempting to trace the whereabouts of the stolen weapons in order to return them to the Pakokku-based resistance forces, the secretary explained, but noted that they were already being used on Karen forces’ own frontlines against the Myanmar army. 

“Everything should be handed over after the trial has ended, but things get complicated because some items can’t be submitted to the [court] office due to the huge demand on the frontline, and some items are not in the same condition as when the murders were committed,” Padoh Saw Liston said. 

One of the victims, Ye Din, who was in his 40s, was a support officer tasked by the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) with purchasing firearms for resistance forces in Pakokku, Myaing, Yesagyo and Pauk townships. 

Padoh Saw Liston said that he had already spoken with NUG officials about the incident. 

At the time of the murder, the three men had been staying at a Kawkareik monastery,  according to an officer from the Pakokku People’s Defence Force. The KNDO’s Battalion 6 commander reportedly assigned five soldiers to guard the visitors and their firearms.  

These KNDO troops later killed the men and stole their weapons, which were valued at 400m kyat (US$190,500), he said.

“We bought the firearms with support from the public and the little money we had saved from farming,” the PDF officer told Myanmar Now. “The transport of firearms to our location is also difficult, and it requires many steps. This has created more difficulties for [resistance forces] in Pakokku District, because we have lost our comrades, as well as a route through which we could source firearms.”

An initial incident report was submitted to NUG’s defence ministry two days after the incident, but no response had been issued at the time of reporting, he added.

“I want to request that both NUG and KNU deliver justice for Ye Din,” the officer said. “We want justice and a fair verdict worthy of a life that has been lost.”

Linn Htin contributed to this report.

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