Mon Soldier Killed in Fighting One Day After Peace Agreement

By Lawi Weng 24 October 2019

A Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) soldier was killed Wednesday when the group clashed with Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) forces in the southern part of Mon State’s Ye Township. The violence broke out just after the two ethnic armed groups issued a joint statement agreeing to stop the fighting.

Though the MNLA leadership did not issue any official acknowledgement, soldiers on the ground confirmed that the soldier was killed during a clash with the KNLA at around 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Sources with the MNLA said that KNLA forces attacked their position.

Lieutenant Colonel Saw Shwe Win from KNLA Brigade 6 also confirmed that a small clash broke out with the MNLA in southern Ye Township soon after the two groups had agreed to pursue a ceasefire.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the two ethnic armed groups announced that they had reached agreement on at least three points: that leaders from both sides would order their forces to stop fighting; that if fighting broke out again, the sides would need to hold peace talks to find a solution; and that the two sides would work to build trust so that local residents who have fled the recent fighting could return to their villages.

Many ethnic Mon were dismayed by the news of the fighting as they believed that it showed the KNLA did not respect the agreement and was willing to violate it.

Lt-Col Saw Shwe Win said that troops on both sides must respect the authority of their commanders as well as the demarcated border between Mon and Karen villages.

For years, the two groups have disputed the boundaries of their territories around the villages of Thee Ba Dot and Balat Don Phike in Three Pagodas Pass Township.

“We agreed to prevent our troops, on both sides, from crossing over the border line in order to stop the fighting, Lt-Col Saw She Win added.

The MNLA and KNLA also agreed to let community leaders from the two villages meet to settle the dispute over their territories, saying it was not the two armed groups’ duty to do it, according to the lieutenant colonel.

He added that efforts to stop the fighting depend on local residents from both sides.

“[Resolution] depends on how the two villages understand each other. For our ground troops, we already ordered them to stop any further fighting.”

The Irrawaddy could not reach the MNLA for comment regarding the agreement.

Tensions between the Mon and Karen armed groups have been high since fighting broke out on Oct. 17 when KNLA forces attacked an MNLA base and killed one MNLA member.

According to Saw Edwerd, a leader with the KNLA in Three Pagodas Pass, the conflict broke out after the MNLA destroyed a KNLA flag that they had put in front of an MNLA base on the dividing line between Karen and Mon territory at Thee Ba Dot.

The KNLA has not released information about casualties among their forces but the Karen Information Center has reported that two KNLA and one Karen civilian have been killed since the fighting began on Oct. 17. According to local sources, at least two members of the KNLA were wounded when they attacked an MNLA base in Thee Ba Dot. They received treatment at Kwai River Christian Hospital near the Thai-Myanmar border.