One member of the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) was killed by Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) attacks at two MNLA strongholds on Thursday, according to sources at the Three Pagodas Pass on the Thai border in Karen State.
There is a territorial dispute at Thee Ba Dot Village near the border where the MNLA death was reported and another attack broke out at Ma Yang Chong in Ye Township.
“Our troops found his dead body outside our base,” Major Nai Aye Mann from the MNLA told The Irrawaddy. He said the KNLA seized the base but retreated after an MNLA counterattack.
The simultaneous 5 a.m. attacks lasted less than 20 minutes.
Saw Edwerd, a spokesman for the KNLA at the Three Pagodas Pass, said the MNLA destroyed a Karen flag three days ago after his armed group put it up on the dividing line between Karen and Mon territory at Thee Ba Dot, sparking Thursday’s violence.
The KNLA put its flag in front of an MNLA base, so it was destroyed, said Maj. Nai Aye Mann. He asked, “Who would accept it if someone put a flag outside their house?”
Maj. Nai Aye Mann asked why the KNLA also attacked the base at Ma Yang Chong if the dispute was just about the flag.
He said the KNLA was unhappy that the MNLA arrested seven members of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) splinter group and seized 11 firearms last month in an attack on a base, which they said was inside Mon territory.
The KNLA is the armed wing of the Karen National Union and the MNLA is the armed wing of the New Mon State Party. Both the KNLA and MNLA have signed the National Ceasefire Agreement with Myanmar’s government.
Fighting sometimes breaks out between the two ethnic armed groups over territory, especially near the Three Pagodas Pass, where both Mon and Karen communities live.
“Our leaders ordered us to stay inside our base and prepare to fight back if the Karen attacked. But they did not let us go to attack the Karen,” said Maj. Nai Aye Mann.
A letter from the MNLA said it would try to talk to the KNLA leadership to solve the problem.
Some Thee Ba Dot villagers fear further attacks and have left their homes.
The KNLA and MNLA have been involved in heavy fighting in the past with hundreds displaced along the border in 1988.
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