RANGOON — Renewed fighting between government troops and ethnic Karen rebels in eastern Burma led to a temporary shutdown of the new Asia Highway on Thursday morning.
Clashes erupted around 5:30am between the Burma Army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), a splinter group born of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the southeastern ethnic state’s dominant rebel force.
A DKBA spokesman, Maj. Saw Lont Lon, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that he was aware of the clashes but could not confirm whether any casualties occurred. The conflict is ongoing at time of writing near Kawkareik, Karen State.
Saw Lont Lon said the conflict may have been triggered by increased deployment of Burma Army soldiers near the rebel-held territory, through which the new highway linking central Burma with Bangkok was built.
“I heard that the dispute arose from the deployment of troops, but I do not know the details yet,” he said.
Locals in Kawkareik said the gunfire began early on Thursday morning and could still be heard just before noon. The highway has been closed, local sources told The Irrawaddy.
A commuter bus operator in nearby Myawaddy, on the border with Thailand further down the highway, confirmed that “the highway has been closed since this morning, but the old route on the Dawna mountain range is still open.”