RANGOON — Fighting flared again on Tuesday in Kawkareik Township, Karen State, where Karen rebels accuse a joint force comprising the Burma Army and Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) of burning down at least 10 houses in the village of Pyar Pin a day earlier.
Clashes broke out after 1 pm local time, according to Col. Nai Maung Zaw from the government-allied Karen BGF, who said he could still hear gunfire while speaking to The Irrawaddy over the phone on Tuesday afternoon.
Conflict first erupted on Saturday in the same area, pitting a splinter faction of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) against the joint pro-government force. The Karen BGF colonel said no soldiers from his side were wounded in the fighting, but acknowledged that troops from the joint force did burn down some huts in Pyar Pin village on Monday.
“We did not burn down the houses of civilians. We burned some huts where their [the DKBA splinter faction] leaders stayed. They spread propaganda saying we burned down civilians’ homes,” said Nai Maung Zaw.
The breakaway DKBA faction goes by the identical acronym, but beginning this year reverted to the DKBA’s original name, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, after its leadership was purged from the “Benevolent” incarnation of DKBA last year. The “Benevolent” DKBA is led by Gen. Saw Lah Pwe, who expelled Col. Saw Kyaw Thet and Col. Saw San Aung from the ranks of his army following fighting between DKBA and government troops along the Asia Highway last year.
Saw Lah Pwe’s DKBA replaced “Buddhist” with “Benevolent” in 2012 to reflect the armed group’s secular nature.
The breakaway faction involved in conflict with the government this week is believed to number some 100 men, who were formerly part of the DKBA’s Klo Htoo Wah tactical group.
The group fired artillery shells into a base of Burma Army Light Infantry 97 in Kawkareik Township’s Kaw Moo village on Tuesday, according to a member of the group.
A statement from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army on Monday said no one from its ranks was wounded in Saturday’s flare-up, but claimed two members of the Karen BGF were injured in the fighting.
“Their troop members were wounded in the fighting. Therefore, they were angry and then they burned down about 10 houses in the village where we were fighting,” said Capt. Ye Htet from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.