Karen and Mon Armed Groups Strike a Deal for Peace

By Lawi Weng 26 January 2017

RANGOON — Two ethnic armed groups representing the Mon and Karen people reached an agreement on Wednesday to maintain peace while they work to resolve a dispute over territory, according to leaders from both sides.

Under Wednesday’s agreement, the Karen National Union (KNU) and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) both pledged to stop fighting and to take additional steps forward.

“Both sides have agreed to halt the conflict; that was the first agreement,” said KNU officer Padoh Win Khaing, who attended the summit. “We also agreed to allow the local people free movement. And lastly, we agreed that village leaders from both sides will work together with the government to settle the argument over territory.”

The KNU and NMSP will invite government officials to visit the conflict area and to mediate future disagreements. In the future, government involvement should help to reduce the level of conflict between the two ethnic armed groups, Padoh Win Khaing said.

The recent conflict started between Karen and Mon villagers who were living close together and farming on the same land. As tensions rose between the two groups, military clashes broke out, he explained.

“Where most of the problems happened here, it was the way some pieces of land were confiscated,” Padoh Win Khaing said. “Or one person settled on land that belonged to another village, and of course they were not happy about it.”

Seven KNU representatives and six NMSP members attended the joint meeting in Dawei Township, Tenasserim Division. Party leaders from both sides discussed the conflict in front of the Tenasserim Division authorities, according to NMSP officer Nai Htaw Rot.

“If the KNU did not come here to fight us, then there would be no fighting,” said Nai Htaw Rot. “But, we will protect ourselves.”

The regional government acted as a mediator at Wednesday’s talks, and Border Affairs Minister U Zaw Lwin pushed the two sides to reach an agreement. Both sides will meet again on Feb. 12, Union Day, where they will continue negotiations.

Mon and Karen armed forces had clashed at least four times since November, and soldiers on both sides were wounded.