By Kantarawaddy Times
A number of POWs from the Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalion 1005, who surrendered when it and Battalion 1004 defected from the regime and started fighting against the military regime in Karenni State in late July, have been transferred to Thai authorities, where they will be handed over to the military regime.
Khu Taw Reh, who heads the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) CDM Monitoring Committee, told Kantarawaddy Times that he didn’t know what to call them as they weren’t deserters. “They are not former Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF) members. They are Burma army soldiers.” In Battalion 1005, 30 soldiers were directly appointed by the Burma army.
KNPLF transformed into a BGF under the Burma army in 2009, with Battalion 1004 located in Hose, Mese Township, and 1005 in Ywathit, Bawlakhe Township.
In Mese Township, where the KNPLF maintains its headquarters, fighting between the resistance forces and the Burma army has been intense since the second week of July after the former BGF announced its defection at the beginning of the month.
According to a Battalion 1005 captain, “Our BGF battalion commander told us that they would join ‘the people,’ and we would be detained as POWs and not harmed. He told us to follow his orders. At that time, he was our commander, so we had to listen to him.”
48 people from the battalion, including the captain, a sergeant, a warrant officer-II, a sergeant clerk, an accountant, an office manager, and their family members, surrendered to the Karenni resistance forces.
The armed organisations decided that those who wanted to return home could do so.
Khu Taw Reh said, “Some of them wanted to stay, but others didn’t, so we discussed the matter with Thailand to send them back to Burma.”
For the first time since the 2021 military coup, a return of POWs has been facilitated. The KNPP handed over 15 people, including 9 soldiers (one captain and a sergeant) and their families, to Thai authorities on 13 August
“It’s meaningless if they continue to work for the military junta, as it is the enemy of the people. However, we won’t force them to take up arms and fight the Burma army. We don’t see these people as our enemy; we recognize them as normal civilian people living here. If they genuinely want to work for the people, they can join the CDM and contribute in different ways,” Khu Taw Reh said.
Kantarawaddy Times repeatedly attempted to contact Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson of the Military Council, for his comment, but he didn’t respond.