Ethnic Karen Armed Group Clashes with Karen Forces Allied to Myanmar Junta

By The Irrawaddy 20 July 2021

Clashes between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF), which is under the control of the Myanmar military, are continuing, despite last month’s peace talks aimed at ending the factional fighting between different ethnic Karen armed groups.

The KNLA’s Brigade 1 clashed with a BGF battalion led by Major Saw Tin Win around 10.30pm on Saturday near the village of Kontangyi in northern Hpa-an Township in Karen State, according to Secretary Padoh Saw Soe Myint of the Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the KNLA.

“BGF troops advanced in two vehicles and our soldiers clashed with them in Kontangyi. The KNLA troops ambushed the vehicles and retreated after shooting for a few minutes. Two BGF fighters were seriously injured in the skirmish,” said Padoh Saw Soe Myint.

BGF Maj. Saw Tin Win confirmed that his troops were ambushed, but denied that two were injured.

The KNLA used rocket-propelled grenades and guns to attack the house of BGF Major Khin Maung Win in Bilin Township, Mon State around 2am on Saturday, said Maj. Saw Tin Win. The house was damaged, but Major Khin Maung Win and his family members were unharmed in the attack.

Padoh Saw Soe Myint denied that the KNLA attacked the BGF major’s house. The KNLA is only responding to the BGF’s attempts to occupy KNLA territory, he claimed.

“There will be stability in the region if the other side (BGF) does not conduct military operations anymore. But if they do, there will be continued fighting because the KNU/KNLA has to protect its territory,” said Padoh Saw Soe Myint.

Leaders of the KNU, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Karen National Union/ Karen National Liberation Army – Peace Council and the BGF met at KNU headquarters from June 15-16 last month in response to fighting between the groups in Karen State. The leaders reached a common agreement to solve future problems through dialogue rather than armed confrontations.

But at least five clashes have taken place between the KNLA’s Brigade 1 and the BGF since the meeting, including four on June 21 alone, according to the KNLA.

Despite the agreement between the leaders, it is inevitable that troops on the ground clash from time to time due to their military activities, said Maj. Saw Tin Win.

“Yes, there are sporadic clashes on the ground. It is natural to have skirmishes as we are all armed groups. We have to address this step by step over time,” he said.

The KNU signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in October 2015 with U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government.

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