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The KIO prison break out

(Interview) – Fifty-five prisoners in a Burmese government labour camp in Muse in northern Shan State were set free by soldiers of the Kachin Impendence Organization 4th Brigade of the 9th Battalion on Wednesday. According to KIO spokesman La Nang, soldiers were passing near the Shwe Pyi Thit labour camp when prison guards shot at them, forcing the Kachin rebels to respond. The incident occurred on September 21 (the International Day of Peace). Meanwhile, the Burmese government is preparing a major offensive against the KIO. Mizzima reporter Phanida talked with La Nang about the incident and the government’s offensive.


Question: The government labour camp where the prisoners were released has a varied history, correct?

Answer: Yes. It’s a great distance from the headquarters of Battalion No. 9. After the cease-fire agreement was reached, they set up a drug rehabilitation centre in 2000. But after some officials there were changed, the drug rehabilitation camp was transformed into a labour camp.

Q: How many KIO soldiers participated in the raid?

A: About 20 soldiers of Battalion No. 9 under Brigade No. 4.

Q: How many armed guards of the government were at the labour camp?

A: We don’t know how many there were. But, when our troops besieged them, we saw only people’s militia and police. They fled. Eight armed guards left. The eight armed guards including a two-star police chief, Aye Than, surrendered. So without firing a shot, we entered the camp. Then we opened the doors and released the prisoners.

Q: How many prisoners were freed?

A: We don’t know exactly how many prisoners there were in the camp. But, we counted 55 prisoners.

Q: What type of prisoners are among the 55 prisoners?

A: There were two prisoners who were related to the KIO. I don’t know whether one was a KIO member or a former member. It’s a frontline area and our soldiers have not arrived back here. So, all we know are some facts we gathered on the phone. Sixteen prisoners were deserters who left the government army because they said officers tortured them. Some of the prisoners were arrested as suspects in trading illegal drugs. A few prisoners were arrested for using illegal drugs. Some were arrested for causing road accidents.

Q: What were you able to learn about the conditions within the prison?

A: Prisoners in all prisons across Burma suffer from malnutrition. Their health is ruined. Many suffer from fever. All we know via the phone is that they were in bad physical condition

Q: What was the nature of the release of the prisoners?

A: In the camp, we asked them questions and made a list of names and other information. Then we talked with them about what we would do. We released the eight policemen. Then we withdrew from the labour camp. We did not destroy the camp. But we seized eight guns from the police.

Q: You said that really you had no plans to raid the labour camp? The release actually came about by accident, didn’t it?

A: When our troops were passing near the labour camp the police threatened us. In fact, if the government’s security police did not shoot, we had no plan to release the prisoners. But they started shooting, that’s why we responded against them. They shot at us because they knew that we were soldiers. So around 1 p.m. we besieged the camp and then the police fled.

If we hadn’t raided the camp to release the prisoners, we would have been irresponsible. But if they hadn’t shot at us, there would have been no reason to go into the camp.

Q: Have you ever freed inmates of a government prison before?

A: Since the previous cease-fire, this is the first time we have freed prisoners. The focus of our fighting is on the government army.

Q: Have you got a list that mentions where the prisoners came from?

A: We will get the list within a few days. Now government troops are being deployed near the Battalion 9 base.

Right now, the government Light Infantry Unit No. 568 and Infantry units No. 290 and 241 under the Lashio-based Northeast Command have been deployed in the area. I think there are about 200 soldiers. And we heard that some government battalions have been deployed from Kutkai and Tamongnye Road. We heard that they have about 50 horses. So, if it’s true that have brought horses, it’s likely that they are preparing to launch a military offensive.

Q: Where did the latest fighting take place?

A: From Lashio, government troops launched a military offensive. They have a plan to launch offensives in the area of Battalion No. 9. So we have seen fighting along a frontline of the Battalion No. 9 area. I don’t know the number of casualties.

Q: Regarding the raid on the labour camp, did the Burmese government contact you in any way?

A: The government has not contacted us. According to information we received today, police from relevant departments are removing their property from the camp. I think it is likely that they will close the camp.

Q: What else transpired in regard to the prisoners?

A: We counseled the prisoners. The KIO told them that it would release them although it knew that they were guilty. We told them that they should work for the stability of the state as much as they can. I was told the prisoners responded gratefully and returned to their family or hometown.

http://www.mizzima.com/edop/interview/5982-the-kio-prison-break-out.html

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