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Burmese government authorities in Myawaddy are prohibiting residents from hoisting the Karen national flag outside their homes, according to local sources.
Over the past few days, government officials in the border town have reportedly been keeping a close eye on ethnic Karen residents in the wake of recent tensions between Karen armed groups and Burmese soldiers in the area. Locals told DVB that officials from both the Burmese army and local government offices have paid visits to Karen households warning them not to display Karen flags or emblems.
“Army officers and local administrators came to tell my neighbours to take down the Karen flag at their house,” one resident said. “They had no choice but to comply with the order.”
The Karen National Union’s (KNU) liaison officer in Myawaddy, Maj. Saw Zorro, confirmed that such measures have been enforced, but said that the order apparently didn’t apply to the offices of Karen armed groups such as the KNU.
“The Tatmadaw [Burmese army] are telling residents in the town to remove Karen flags and emphasising that there should be only one national flag for the country,” he said.
Speaking to DVB on Wednesday, a police officer in Myawaddy who declined to be named said that no orders prohibiting the display of Karen flags had been issued.
Myawaddy—a major town on the Burmese side of the Thai-Burmese border—is a strategic base not only for the Burmese army, but also for the KNU, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), and several other Karen militias.
A number of fire-fights have broken out in recent weeks between various armed units in Myawaddy and other parts of Karen State. Tensions appear to be coming to a head as ceasefire talks have polarised armed ethnic groups and local commanders seek out strategic positions ahead of any potential peace agreement.