The Irrawaddy

Clashes Break Out Between Myanmar Army and KNLA

YANGON — Clashes broke out between Myanmar Army and Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) troops near the village of Kan Nyi Naung in Karen State’s Papun District on Tuesday.

Battalion 44 of the Myanmar Army clashed with Battalion 102 of KNLA Brigade 5, according to a Tatmadaw officer stationed in Papun District.

Clashes continued and there were three intermittent clashes on Wednesday, the officer said.

He declined to discuss the reason for the clashes or the number of casualties.

Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo, general secretary of the KNU, claimed that clashes erupted after Myanmar Army troops entered territory controlled by KNLA Brigade 5.

“There was engagement. I don’t know the details. It is difficult to contact the military. We are trying to contact their tactical commanders on the ground, but have not been able to yet,” he said.

“It is not unusual for the two sides to exchange fire on the frontlines over a misunderstanding. But I’m not sure what the cause is for the misunderstanding this time,” he added.

“What is important is that both sides should be committed to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA),” said the KNU general secretary.

The KNU is a major armed ethnic group that signed the NCA with the government in 2015. Despite this, there have been frequent military tensions between the Myanmar Army and KNLA Brigade 5.

In March, the Myanmar Army deployed its troops and did roadwork in Luthaw Township, an area controlled by the KNLA in Papun District. Resultant clashes between the military and TNLA forced more than 3,000 locals from their homes. Many are still unable to return home.

The two clashed again in July in Papun during the third session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in administrative capital Naypyitaw.

Moreover, the Southeast Command of the Myanmar Army banned a military parade to mark Karen Martyrs’ Day in Papun District at the end of July. The command also deployed troops, heightening military tensions.

Joint ceasefire monitoring committees at different levels have not yet been able to resolve the conflicts between the two sides.

The KNU has formed a military affairs negotiation team (MANT) to discuss military and deployment matters with the Tatmadaw, said the KNU general secretary. However, there have been no discussions between the two sides, he said.

“Much more has yet to be discussed regarding implementing the NCA while political agreements have not yet been reached. There is confusion,” he said.

In an interview with The Irrawaddy in July, deputy chief of staff of the KNLA Lt-Gen Baw Kyaw He claimed that Myanmar had expanded its deployments in KNLA-controlled areas after signing the NCA; and that Tatmadaw is also attempting to obtain a border area controlled by the KNLA Brigade 5 in Papun District.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the spokespersons of Tatmadaw to seek their comments on Baw Kyaw He’s claim.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.