Despite Military’s Demands, Karen Armed Group Stands Its Ground

By Lawi Weng 23 June 2016

RANGOON — At an emergency meeting held on Thursday, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) decided not to withdraw from a military checkpoint in the Htee Khee area of southern Burma’s Tenasserim Division, according to local sources.

On Monday, a tactical commander from Military Operations Command 19 ordered the KNLA at the checkpoint to withdraw within three days of his visit to the area. But when the deadline came on Thursday, KNLA Brigade No. 4 said they would defend the outpost even if government troops attempted to take it by force.

A source close to the Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the KNLA, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, “We decided not to withdraw from our checkpoint. We have a liaison office in Dawei [the capital of Tenasserim], and they should go there to talk about a withdrawal and make an official request.”

“There is even a Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) office in Dawei. They should have gone there and talked about it,” he added, referring to the group assigned to monitor the implementation of Burma’s nationwide ceasefire agreement between the government and ethnic armed groups.

The KNU signed the accord in 2015, and has been an active participant in the peace process. This is the first dispute that has threatened last year’s truce.

“Our people have sacrificed their lives to control this checkpoint. So why should we withdraw from it?” another source from the KNLA said. “We will defend our checkpoint.”

“[The Burma Army commander’s] actions violated our ceasefire agreement. He does not have the right to come to our checkpoint. He should have gone to our liaison office if there was something to talk about,” said the source.

This tussle comes a week after the Burma Army’s encroachment into territory controlled by an ethnic Mon armed group.

In mid-June, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) was ordered to withdraw from an outpost in Kyaikmayaw Township, Mon State. When the MNLA refused, the Burma Army raided the checkpoint by force and seized two weapons.