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Armed Karenni troops cause stir in Loikaw

Karenni National Progressive Party members (Photo: Facebook/ KNPP)

Armed soldiers were amongst a delegation from the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) that arrived in Loikaw on Thursday for talks with Burmese military representatives, despite an order from government authorities that troops must not enter the town or travel outside their designated territory with weapons.

Around 200 KNPP troops carrying guns and rifles arrived in the Karenni state capital on the banks of the Salween River, ignoring the warning from the regional chief minister and the army’s regional operations commander on 2 May.

Nyay Reh, coordinator of the KNPP’s liaison office in Loikaw, said the Karenni representatives met on Thursday with the army commander and the regional border and security affairs minister in Loikaw, where they explained that the presence of armed soldiers should not be seen as a hostile gesture.

“Our troops are here to meet with the public. We are not looking for a fight,” said Nyay Reh. “The government officials said they believe us, but must follow orders. In fact, both sides must exercise restraint to avoid any problems.”

The KNPP was represented by General Secretary Aung San Myint, while the government delegation was headed by State Border and Security Affairs Minister Col. Zaw Myo Tin, Regional Operations Commander Col. Aye Lwin and other senior military officers.

The KNPP signed a preliminary ceasefire agreement with the government in 2012, which included a clause that it should maintain patrols and activities within its own territory, and that its soldiers would not carry arms when moving outside of that area.

Nyay Reh said the KNPP troops have set up camp in the forest outside Loikaw, and that they intend to meet with local residents to explain their cause. He said they also brought medicine and medics to provide treatment to some of the local population.

He said discussions would continue when KNPP leaders return from Panghsang where they were attending an ethnic groups’ meeting hosted by the Union Wa State Party.