The Karen national flag flown in front of a primary school in the dual administration areas of Win Ye Township was taken down by Burma Army soldiers operating in the areas.
Local KNU officials confirmed to Karen News that the incident took place on November 11, at Konekhaing (Koekaw) village in Win Ye Township in the Karen National Union’s Doo Pla Ya district.
The Burma army soldiers said that they removed the flag for security reasons ahead of the Regional Commander’s field trip to the area.
A local KNU official from Win Ye Township, who asked not to be named, spoke to Karen News on November 21 and said that seven soldiers from the 31 Light Infantry Battalion came to the village and took down the Karen flag.
“The Regional Commander stopped in Konekhaing village en-route to somewhere else. The soldiers went to the school and took down the flag. We didn’t know why they did it. We just learned about it when the locals came and told us.”
The KNU official said that taking down the flag was inappropriate and they had reported the incident to KNU district and brigade offices. The official also noted that government troops are now more active in the Win Ye Township area.
Villagers claimed the government soldiers not only took down the Karen flag, but also removed a signboard at the school. The Konekhaing village primary school was built with funding from a Non-Government Organization and both curriculums of the KNU’s Karen EducationDepartment (KED) and Government Education Ministry are taught in the school.
Saw Eh Ka Sauk said the action of the Burma army soldiers showed their attitude towards the ethnic nationalities.
“This shows that the Burma army don’t give equal rights to Karen people. Whose flag do we’ have to fly if we are not allowed to fly ours? Their [Burma Army] action means they don’t recognize our Karen flag [as legitimate].”
KNU sources said that the Burma Army soldiers action is a breach of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. The NCA states that the “The Tatmadaw and Ethnic Armed Organizations shall avoid restrictions on the right to education in accordance with the law; destruction of schools and educational buildings, including educational tools; and the disturbance and hindrance of students and teachers.”
KNU sources point out that the NCA also states that both sides are to; “Avoid either directly or indirectly interfering, humiliating or damaging the reputation of public activities to preserve religion, literature, and cultural and traditional practices.”
This is the first time since the ceasefire agreement that the Karen national flag that flies at every school in mixed controlled areas have been taken down by the Burma army.
Karen News was unable to contact the local Burma Army officer for their response, but according to the latest information from local villagers, the Burma Army unit responsible for the flag’s removal have since apologized for their soldier’s action and explained that they did it out of ignorance.