Amid Mon-Karen Tensions, Troops Withdrawn and Normalcy Temporarily Restored

By Lawi Weng 6 May 2019

Karen rebels have withdrawn troops from Tha Thein village, near the Three Pagodas Pass, on Sunday, amid recent military tensions with a Mon armed group, according to Karen State border sources. The move follows a meeting between the two factions on May 3.

Nai Ah Kar, a New Mon State Party (NMSP) officer in the Three Pagodas Pass area, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) — the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) — has withdrawn their troops already and all locals may now travel freely.

Nai Ah Kar said the NMSP is also preparing to withdraw troops from the high-tension area, returning all Mon and Karen troops to their military barracks and deflating all tensions, returning the situation to normal.

Saw Htee Edward, of the KNU’s Liaison Office in Three Pagodas Pass, also confirmed that his troops have already withdrawn from Mon areas.

Tensions arose following a small clash on April 29 between the KNLA and Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), the armed wing of the NMSP, over a territorial dispute regarding a logging project.

At the May 3 meeting near Three Pagodas Pass, a dozen KNU and NMSP leaders agreed on three points: that both sides would withdraw troops from areas of military tension; that the NMSP would temporarily stop a logging project in the area; and that both sides would give advanced warning when troops travel to each controlled area in the future, according to Nai Ah Kar.

The disputed area has seen peace since the NMSP signed a ceasefire with the Myanmar government in 1995. Both the KNU and the NMSP later made verbal agreements to work towards local development and economic improvement, especially in the area of forestry.

In a previous logging project carried out by the NMSP there, that group agreed to give the KNU 19,000 kyats for every ton of timber they harvested; this time, however, the KNU did not accept the payment, insisting the area belongs to them.