An interview with Colonel Khun Okkar, Patron of Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO)
A convoy carrying regional diplomats and officials from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was attacked around 9 am on 7 May near Nan Aw village on the Hopong-Hsihseng section of Pyidaungsu Road while attempting to deliver relief supplies to internally displaced persons (IDPs).
PNLO patron Khun Okkar denied allegations that the attack on the convoy of the ASEAN Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance in Disaster Management (AHA Centre) was perpetrated by PNLO. Shan Herald contacted PNLO patron Khun Okkar to learn more about the incident.
Q: Can you tell us about yesterday’s attack on a convoy carrying ASEAN diplomats and officials?
A: It’s true that they were officials from the AHA center. They were on their way to deliver goods to the IDP camps in Hsihseng Township. In fact, they had already delivered the goods on 6 May. It looks like they personally went there yesterday (May 7) to distribute the goods. After that, they might have wanted to talk to the IDPs in person. Initially they were going to meet at Yaybyu camp, but then the meeting was moved to PNLO’s liaison office because the camp close to the Karenni border.
The plan was to bring ten families by car from Yaybuy camp and distribute the relief items at the liaison office as an exhibition. Three types of items were to be distributed, including rice bags and medical supplies. PNLO Vice Chairman Khun Tun Tin was also waiting for them so that he could help with the distribution. I believe there were also consuls and a diplomat in the convoy that left Taunggyi at that time. The Shan State police provided security for them. There were no Myanmar Army soldiers in the convoy, which consisted of 11 cars. The car that was shot at was the last car in the convoy. The attack was apparently to prevent the convoy from proceeding, not to abduct, beat or kill them. The incident occurred just four miles from Hsihseng. After the attack, the convoy turned back on orders from the battalion commander. The regional commander sent his troops to pick up the convoy. This is what I heard about the incident.
Q: Where did the shooting take place?
A: It took place near the village of Nan Aw. The village is only four miles from Hsiseng. The road was a slope with bends.
Q: How did they attack the convoy?
A: They fired about ten shots at the convoy. They did it with long guns. They were wearing casual Pa’O clothes, as if they were on their way to their hillside farms. It’s estimated that there were five or six of them. They came in a car and drove away after shooting.
Q: Were there any casualties in the shooting?
A: No one was injured except for the car.
Q: What do you think is the motive for this attack?
A: I think they [the attackers] didn’t want the officers to continue their journey and talk to the villagers first-hand because that would reveal the real situation about them on the ground. So I think the shooting happened because of a misunderstanding within (these groups) and not by a group from outside.
Q: Do you know the group that fired the shots?
A: Yes, I know that. As for the administration, this area is in the Pa’O Self-Administered Zone. But I can’t say which group most likely did it. It’s one of the groups that are active here in the area. The groups that are dominant in the area are the police, the army, and the people’s militia called the Pa-O National Army (PNA).
Q: A PNA official told the media that the attack was perpetrated by the PNLO. How would you comment on that?
A: The PNLO is the one who arranged this event. The PNLO representatives who came to pick up the diplomats were there in the convoy. And the vice chairman of PNLO himself was to participate in the distribution of the items. PNLO representatives also went to Bali to negotiate this aid. The trip to Bali was led by the PNLO. They started to deliver the humanitarian aid according to the Bali agreement. So there is no reason for the PNLO to shoot them.
If PNLO can successfully implement the agreement, they’ll get some political recognition from ASEAN. Then we have a chance for long-term cooperation with ASEAN. There could be good opportunities for the PNLO from that and all the other political benefits. So there is no reason for PNLO to shoot them. A group that has nothing to gain politically would have done it. We have to think about it.
Q: How would you like to respond to the PNA’s claim that the shooting was carried out by the PNLO?
A: That is simply out of the question. There were PNLO officials in the convoy and PNLO Vice Chairman Khun Tun Tin was also waiting for them in Hsehseng. The agreement was made with the intention that we’d benefit from political recognition and regional development. If there is any group out there that is jealous of the PNLO, that group would have done it with malicious intentions. PNLO wouldn’t say who did it. And we don’t care if the PNLO claims that we did it.
Q: How has this incident affected security in the region?
A: We don’t have to worry much about security in the region. But we’re worried that the aid won’t reach those in need in the region. People will starve. I worry that there will be no food or clothing for them. No one wants to do the work to help the people. What they have in mind is to collect money from the people, recruit them or torture them. In return, they don’t want to support this community. And they’re rather envious of the group that is able to do that. That is the problem.
Q: What else would you like to add?
A: No more.
Sent by Shan Herald.