KNU warns junta personnel to leave Karen territory

The Karen National Union (KNU) has warned junta-appointed administration staff, members of the military-allied Border Guard Force (BGF) and their families to leave KNU-administered territory, the organisation’s spokesperson said. 

“In order to take down the military’s governing mechanism and reduce their control over the country, we must take care of their collaborators too,” spokesperson Padoh Saw Taw Nee told Myanmar Now. 

He described the order, issued by the Karen authorities in Brigade 1 in Mon State’s Thaton District on Monday, and Brigade 5 in Karen State’s Mutraw (Hpapun) District on January 29, as being in line with the KNU central committee’s policies. 

Civilians in these areas have also been warned by the KNU not to engage or collaborate with the junta’s forces. 

The Karen BGF answers to the military council and has been carrying out attacks on the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)—the KNU’s armed wing—alongside the junta’s troops. 

In the KNU announcement issued in Brigade 1, family members of BGF troops were ordered to leave their base in Hpa-an, Karen State, and the troops themselves were asked to leave the group and end their collaboration with the junta. Military council administrative staff in the Karen State capital were also told to leave their posts. 

Thursday was the deadline provided by the KNU for the staff of several junta departments in Mutraw to leave their posts, or face action by the Karen forces.

Citing a Brigade 5 tactical officer, Karen news agency KIC reported that more than 100 staff members working for the military’s administrative mechanism in Mutraw—in the education, agriculture and livestock ministries, as well as in the judiciary and the audit office—had resigned from their jobs ahead of the deadline. 

The report stated that the KNU had helped the staff with their departures. 

The KNU has declared that the vacant positions and duties would be filled by their own existing ethnic governance structure across 14 major departments including defence, education and health. 

“The on-ground organisations that are under our control are trying to do what they can for now,” Padoh Saw Taw Nee said of the current administration of the area.

The KNU opposed last year’s military coup and has been battling the junta ever since, as well as the Myanmar army at large for more than seven decades.

The organisation signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the military and the previous government in 2015, but has since stated that “it is time to say goodbye” to the accord, due to repeated and deliberate Myanmar army violations.

In June of last year, Karen armed organisations including the KNU/KNLA, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council and the BGF met at the KNU’s central command to attempt to prevent further conflict and division between the groups. 

The BGF continued fighting on the side of the junta. 

The KNU publicly rejected a junta invitation to all ethnic armed organisations on Sunday to a “peace talk” with the military, citing a lack of trust in the armed forces amid continued air and ground attacks on Karen territory. They also rejected a similar invitation sent on January 1. 

KIC reported—but Myanmar Now is unable to independently verify—that the DKBA and KNU/KNLA-Peace Council will be attending the upcoming meeting with the military. 

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