Rival Ethnic Karen Groups Urged to Stop Fighting Each Other in Southern Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 23 February 2023

The International Karen Organization (IKO), a network of Karen expatriates, has urged the Karen National Union’s (KNU) Brigade 4 and the Kaw Thoo Lei Army (KTLA) to cease fighting, following months of rising military tension between the two rival groups in southern Myanmar.

In a statement issued February 22, the IKO said it was sad to see fighting between the two ethnic Karen armed groups in southern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region. The organization urged them instead to take advantage of the rising tide of revolution against the Myanmar military, and turn their gun barrels towards the regime instead of fighting each other. It also urged the KTLA and KNU Brigade 4 to stop fighting in consideration of all oppressed Karen people.

KNU Brigade 4 soldiers attacked a KTLA base on Monday in an area known as Khay Ma Khee in Tanintharyi Region. Three KTLA members died, while one KNU fighter was injured in the clash. The base was also captured by KNU Brigade 4, according to a Karen language statement from KNU Brigade 4.

The KNU statement claimed that the attack was launched because KTLA troops abducted a KNU private on February 5 and refused to return him.

In January, KTLA troops reportedly ambushed KNU Brigade 4 fighters. An administrative officer of KNU Brigade 4’s Myeik-Dawei District administrative branch and the deputy commander of the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) Battalion 12 were seriously wounded. The KNLA is an armed wing of the KNU.

The KTLA was formed in July 2022 and is led by Brigadier General Saw Nedah Mya, who split from the KNU. He is the second son of the late General Saw Bo Mya, who was the long-standing chairman of the KNU and one of the most prominent ethnic revolutionary figures in Myanmar.