The anti-junta Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) will “take action” against two army officers and some 24 men who were working for the military council’s electricity department when they were arrested by resistance fighters in southern Shan State’s Pekhon Township last week.
A KNDF information officer said that the personnel are all men between the ages of 30 and 50. They were taken into KNDF custody on April 21 with their vehicles after being intercepted by members of the resistance alliance on the road connecting Pekhon with the Karenni (Kayah) State capital of Loikaw.
The following morning, the captives were reportedly transferred to the Karenni State Police (KSP)—the law enforcement institution founded by the resistance movement.
“They are safe and sound. We are keeping them in humane conditions,” the KNDF spokesperson said.
Among the detainees were day labourers who had been working for the electricity department, he added.
He explained that the KNDF and KSP would determine who among the captives could be released and who would be punished for maintaining ties to the junta.
“We have already declared that we will take action against anyone that helps run the military council’s administrative mechanism,” he said, adding, “we urge all remaining civil servants working for the junta to leave their jobs.”
The KNDF reported in February that the junta administration in Karenni State was believed to be functioning at only 10 percent capacity.
The information officer said that the KNDF would be “carrying out the necessary investigation and interrogation” concerning the current detainees, and that the KSP would be responsible for pursuing a case or bringing charges against them.
“The KSP will announce any news regarding the release of those that are innocent and they will take action against those who are guilty,” the information officer told Myanmar Now.
He did not elaborate on what the investigation process would entail, what charges would be filed against the men and with whom, or what action would be taken.
According to a KNDF statement on the arrests, the group of men—including the two military officers present—had been staying at the base of the Pekhon-based Light Infantry Battalion 336. They were reportedly unarmed at the time they were arrested, and told the KNDF that they were in the area to “fix power lines.”
The power lines along the Pekhon-Loikaw road supply electricity to both Naypyitaw and Yangon.
“Our investigation suggests that they were using the power lines as an excuse to scout for information in this area, where there have been ongoing battles,” the KNDF information officer said. “That’s why we had to capture them—it was for the safety of this area.”
The KNDF spokesperson said it is standard for the resistance force to detain “suspicious persons” in their territory but will release them if there is insufficient evidence connecting them to the military council.
“We are not being overly suspicious of all civilians, but we need to take all necessary measures to capture the junta’s people who are operating in areas of conflict,” he added.
The Karenni Region which includes territory from Pekhon Township in southern Shan State and Karenni State, has become a major resistance stronghold in the more than one year that has followed the February 2021 military coup.
Karenni defence forces—which make up the coalition that is the KNDF—have destroyed telecommunications towers belonging to military-owned Mytel in Karenni State’s Demoso Township, as well as power lines connecting the state’s Lawpita hydroelectric power station to Naypyitaw.
As a result of heavy fighting, military airstrikes, and scorched earth campaigns by the junta’s armed forces, some 200,000 of the Karenni Region’s 300,000 people have been displaced, according to civil society organisation estimates.
In April alone, 233 civilians and more than 100 resistance fighters were killed by the Myanmar Army in the region, the youth group the Progressive Karennni People’s Force reported.
Myanmar Now remains unable to independently verify the figures.
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