Karenni State Liberated From Myanmar Junta Control by Yearend: IEC

April 24th, 2024  •  Author:   The Irrawaddy  •  5 minute read
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Local resistance forces now control over 90 percent of Karenni (Kayah) State, Khun Bedu, vice-chairman of the Karenni State Interim Executive Council (IEC), told The Irrawaddy in a recent interview.

“2024 is the year resistance fighters will return home,” said Khun Bedu, though he acknowledged that junta airstrikes continue to inflict serious damage on the state.

Do you have a Thingyan (traditional New Year) message for the people?

I wish for peace for all those who are fighting against the military regime in Myanmar. I would like to tell them that in Karenni State, we continue our efforts to topple the junta and enable [resistance fighters] to return home in 2024. We are also trying our best to enable people across the country to celebrate Thingyan with their families in years to come.

The Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and allies have reportedly seized most of the territory in Karenni State, which lies not far east of the regime’s nerve center, Naypyitaw. Can you update us on the latest situation?

We have reported that Karenni resistance forces now control over 90 percent of Karenni State. Junta troops are still deployed in certain parts of towns, for example, near Moebye Dam in Moebye Town. Combined, junta positions account for some 10 percent of Karenni State. Our mission is to crush all the remaining junta positions in 2024. We are attacking battalions in Hpasawng that were reinforced with troops from Bawlakhe, 48 kilometers away. Our ambush attacks here have killed around 110 junta troops and captured over 50. We are confident of defeating junta positions in both Hpasawng and Moebye. We will have 100 percent control over Karenni State when we can defeat another six junta positions [at other locations in the state].

The Interim Executive Council issued an April 16 statement regarding the media. What was the purpose of the statement?

We are doing our best to deliver public services in areas we control in Karenni State. Media agencies have reported on this occasionally either through in-situ coverage or phone interviews. Recently, freelance reporters have phoned to tell us that they were threatened while doing their job, and they felt unsafe. The IEC is responsible for administration, and we need to provide security for journalists. We have not yet adopted standard procedures for handling journalists. So, we issued a statement asking journalists to report to the IEC when they visit Karenni State and always wear media badges while they are doing their job, and not to engage in any act that may undermine the revolution. We must ensure their reporting does not stray outside reasonable limits by, for example, revealing locations of our troops, the size of our battalions, and so on. Karenni State is still a conflict zone and there are challenges to the rule of law. The IEC will be held responsible if something bad happens to journalists. If they reach out to us, we can coordinate with local authorities for their safety, aiming to provide greater security. We allow journalists to do their job freely and we also allow our members to speak freely to them. Before taking up our current posts, we were community leaders advocating freedom of expression.

The statement seems contradictory, with point No. 5 promising no restrictions on media but saying controls will be applied regarding military and administrative issues. What do you mean exactly?

We have previously encountered difficulties when journalists looking for scoops reported on planned military operations and administrative matters. We only had a gentleman’s agreement with them not to report on those issues. However, some were more interested in scoops. So, our statement asks them to show understanding and request our agreement [to report on sensitive matters].

What are the major challenges facing local organizations like the IEC and KNDF that emerged after the coup?

The major challenge is financing. We need funds to procure military hardware, deliver public services, and for reconstruction work. We are doing our best to maximize benefits from the funds available. We plan to make our expenditures public in June.

The second challenge concerns military affairs. The regime continues to carry out indiscriminate air and artillery attacks on civilians. Two children and a woman were killed in a junta bombing raid on a residential area on April 11. The airstrikes continue to take a heavy toll on civilians in Karenni State.

Thirdly, we hope that all forces in Karenni State will understand and join our political platform. Our goal is to form a caretaker government by 2026 and organize elections in 2030. Though we believe our goal is practical and possible, it still depends on the overall situation in the country. At the same time, cooperation from other forces in Karenni State is required to implement this political roadmap. Only then will we achieve the democracy, human rights and self-determination that people aspire to.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

We are also engaging with people and fellow revolutionary organizations in other parts of the country. In Karenni State, we still have shortcomings, especially since not all political groups have joined us yet. We need funds. We need to strengthen the rule of law and our institutions. We have to build institutions like law enforcement that were wrecked by the coup. So, shortcomings are inevitable. We always welcome constructive criticism. We have come this far due to support from the public, and we ask them to maintain that support. We have a pragmatic policy to build a federal Union that guarantees democracy and human rights after the regime is toppled, with armed forces under the command of a civilian government. We will continue to work with fellow ethnic armed organizations and the National Unity Government toward that goal.

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