RANGOON — A car owned by the commander-in-chief of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) was seized by the Burmese government in Rangoon less than three weeks after a meeting between a delegation he led and President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, according to Karen sources.
The sources said Gen. Saw Johnny’s car was seized on June 23 on Kabaraye Pagoda Road in Rangoon. His son was behind the wheel at the time, on an errand for his father.
The car, a Toyota Land Cruiser, had no import license and was valued at about 70 million kyats (US$71,000), according to Saw Moe Myint, a Karen community leader in Rangoon.
“He [Saw Johnny] has already provided an explanation,” said Saw Moe Myint, a Karen community leader with close ties to the KNLA’s political wing, the Karen National Union (KNU). “He will not take it back as the car had no permit. His son was driving the car when it was seized,”
A KNU liaison officer in Myawaddy confirmed that the commander-in-chief’s car was seized according to Mahn Myo Myint, a border-based Karen who is close to the KNU.
In a post on his Facebook account, Mahn Myo Myint said Saw Rose, a KNLA colonel who also serves as a liaison officer, told him that the KNU delegation had used the car to travel around Naypyidaw when they met Thein Sein and Burma Army commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing early in June.
“The government offered car permits to the KNU already. Where are those car permits being used? They have the right to seize it, for driving the car without permits,” said Saw Moe Myint.
Ethnic armed groups in Burma have received hundreds of car import permits over the last year from the government, as Naypyidaw has endeavored to achieve a long-sought “nationwide ceasefire agreement.” Luxury car permits can be sold for as much at $100,000.
The KNU signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 2012. The Karen News Group reported on Wednesday that a fresh clash broke out between KNLA and government troops on Saturday, killing one government soldier and wounding another.
One soldier from the KNLA was killed on June 14 when government troops attacked a KNLA outpost in Tenasserim Division. It was the most significant armed confrontation between the two sides since the ceasefire was signed.