Mon and Karen Armed Groups Clash, Wounding Four Soldiers

By Lawi Weng 12 January 2017

RANGOON — Four members of the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) were wounded when fighting broke out between Mon and Karen ethnic armed groups on Wednesday, according to local sources.

Soldiers of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which is based in Dawei Township, attacked an MNLA position in the early morning. The KNLA followed up with a second attack around noon on Wednesday against separate MNLA bases, according to a spokesperson from the New Mon State Party (NMSP), which acts as the political wing of the MNLA.

“One soldier was wounded during the first KNLA attack, when they came to attack our base,” said Nai Win Hla, an NMSP executive committee member. “Three more of our soldiers were wounded in the second attack.”

Following the morning attack by the KNLA, the MNLA sent additional soldiers to reinforce those who were fighting. The second wave of attacks took place at separate locations, away from where the reinforcements had arrived.

One of the wounded soldiers, who suffered a hand injury, was treated at a hospital in Ye Township. The three other soldiers were wounded less seriously, and they received medical treatment at their bases, said Nai Win Hla.

The MNLA and KNLA, the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), have an ongoing dispute over territory in Dawei Township, Tenasserim Division. Members of both ethnic groups live in the same communities within Dawei.

Since November, clashes have broken out at least four times between the two ethnic armed groups. MNLA and KNLA leaders have tried to negotiate the dispute, but their talks have not led to an agreement on territorial boundaries.

“We are asking them to have one more meeting,” said Nai Win Hla, “but they still haven’t replied yet.”

The Irrawaddy reached out to KNLA leaders for comment, but one member of the KNLA liaison office in Dawei said that he did not have permission to discuss the fighting.

In the past, Mon and Karen ethnic armed groups have fought over other territorial disputes, but those clashes normally took place at the district level and did not involve planning from higher headquarters.

In 1989, the ethnic armed groups clashed repeatedly for control of the Three Pagodas Pass, which crosses the Thai-Burma border. Since 1989, the KNLA and MNLA clashed very little until November 2016.

Although the MNLA signed a ceasefire deal with Burma’s military government in 1995, the group has not signed on to the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). The KNLA is an NCA signatory.