The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has rejected a Burma Army claim that 21 KIA deserters surrendered to government forces in Mong Ko, northern Shan State on Thursday.
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief reported that the alleged deserters included three captains, and that together they had 10 rifles and nearly 130 rounds of ammunition. The report said that the KIA soldiers wanted to live legally in Burma and that they believed in the military’s peace process, so they abandoned their weapons.
“It’s not true,” Col Naw Bu, who is charge of the KIA’s information department, told SHAN. “The information about 21 deserters surrendering to the army is not true. They are not our soldiers.”
He wrote off the military’s report as “propaganda” and alleged that military allies were in the process of forming a militia in Mong Ko.
“They need at least 60 soldiers if they want to form a people’s militia group. I have heard that they are trying to recruit locals,” Col Naw Bu explained.
Troops from the Burma Army and KIA clashed in the town in 2016. Local civilians were killed, and churches, homes and schools were damaged during the intense fighting.
The KIA’s 36th Battalion is active in Mong Ko Township, along with the Tatmadaw, and various militias.