Mon and Karen Forces Clash in Dawei District

By Lawi Weng 9 September 2016

RANGOON—A clash erupted Thursday afternoon between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) in Tae Chong village of Dawei District. The two ethnic armed groups both claim land in the area, also known as Tavoy, in Tenasserim Division.

“Members of the Karen National Union [KNU] came into the village,” Nai Win Hla, a spokesperson from the New Mon State Party (NMSP), told The Irrawaddy Friday.

“Two of their members came to observe our army base nearby. On their way back, two of our soldiers chased them, they fought back and a short firefight broke out.”

The spokesperson reported no casualties from MNLA soldiers but that one soldier from KNLA—the armed wing of the KNU—was wounded by a gunshot, according to local residents.

The NMSP informed Burma’s Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the incident; the group oversees the implementation of 2015’s nationwide ceasefire agreement, which the KNU/KNLA signed, but the MNLA opted out of. The NMSP also told the Dawei regional government and contacted KNU’s liaison office in Dawei to meet and resolve the problem, Nai Win Hla reported.

According to local Mon and Karen sources, tensions have been high in recent months because ethnic Mon have begun growing rubber plants on an area claimed by KNU in the past but currently controlled by the MNLA.

“First, they [KNU] wanted ethnic Mon growing rubber plants in the area to get out, then they even wanted our troops to move out from these areas,” NMSP spokesperson Nai Win Hla said.

“We have been based in this area since before we signed the ceasefire agreement with the government [in 1995, and renewed in 2012]. But now the KNU are saying this area belongs to them, this is the dispute that caused the fight to break out.”

The Irrawaddy contacted the KNU liaison office in Dawei and a staffer confirmed that there was a fight with the Mon but said that they were not available to discuss it further.

An ethnic Karen Dawei resident close to the KNLA, who asked to remain nameless, said “this is not ethnic conflict; it was just a land dispute.”

The source said that after the KNU tried to remove a Mon rubber farmer from a KNU-controlled area, the rubber farmer called the MNLA, leading to the clash.