One of Burma’s last remaining insurgent forces, the Karen National Union (KNU), has rejected a report by state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar which said that 22 KNU soldiers recently surrendered to the Burmese army.
The New Light of Myanmar reported on July 23 that 22 soldiers of Battalion 18 under Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 6, including high-ranking officers such as Capt Saw Lay Ke, had surrendered to the Burmese army in Thingannyinaung in southern Karen State with eight small arms and assorted ammunition.
Maj Hla Ngwe, joint secretary (1) of the KNU, the political wing of the KNLA, rejected the report, calling it “junta propaganda.”
He added: “We have already checked all our battalions in Brigade 6, and none of our troops disarmed.”
However, a Karen source at the Thai-Burmese border confirmed that a group of former KNLA soldiers had joined the Burmese army a few days ago.
“They [the defecting soldiers] are former Karen soldiers. But as far as I know, they are not currently enlisted with the KNLA,” said the source.
Burma’s state press reported that the Burmese government is providing assistance to the defecting soldiers and their 15 family members, totaling 37 people.
The 1949-founded KNU has been fighting for autonomy from the Burmese military regime for six decades and is one of the few remaining factions that has never signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government.
According to the Burmese regime’s official figures, 17 ethnic armed groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government since 1989.