Tatmadaw, KNPP Troops Clash in Hpa Saung Township

By Lawi Weng 22 October 2018

The Myanmar Army and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) traded accusations of violating their six-year-old bilateral ceasefire agreement after the two sides’ troops clashed in Karenni State over the weekend.

The clash, which broke out at around 8 a.m. on Oct. 20, was the first since the two sides signed a ceasefire in 2012. No one was injured in the fighting.

According to a statement issued on Oct. 20 by the state government, seven KNPP members attacked a Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) unit earlier that day between Nan Kit and Ba Han Lot villages in Hpa Saung Township.

However, in a statement issued on Oct. 21, the KNPP said Tatmadaw troops had arrested two local men and forced them to serve as guides for a clearance operation. It said the Tatmadaw’s Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) 428, based in Mawchi Township, traveled to a KNPP-controlled area to conduct the operation, but did not use a regular, designated route agreed to in 2013. This use of a non-designated route triggered the clash, according to the KNPP.

Khu Daniel, a member of the KNPP’s central committee, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the party would discuss the clash at its monthly meeting at the end of October.

He added that the tension in the area had eased since the Oct. 20 clash as the Tatmadaw had ended its clearance operation.

The state government said in its Oct. 20 statement that the alleged KNPP attack violated the ceasefire agreement between the Myanmar government and the KNPP and frightened the local population. The statement was signed by Colonel Myint Wai, the Karenni State security and border affairs minister, on behalf of the state chief minister.

Col. Myint Wai said his government condemned the action by the KNPP and demanded that the organization take steps to control its ground forces in order to prevent further fighting.

Under a bilateral agreement, the KNPP and Myanmar Army use designated routes for troop movements, and are supposed to give three days’ notice of any such movements. However, the KNPP said the Tatmadaw failed to comply with the bilateral agreement, as it failed to notify the KNPP liaison office ahead of time. “The action caused grave concern that a similar incident to one in which four [KNPP] troops were killed by the Myanmar Army last year would occur,” the KNPP statement said.

After learning from local residents that the Tatmadaw was moving into its area, the KNPP contacted the deputy commander of LIB 428, but the officer responded that the Tatmadaw had the right to operate anywhere within the Union and that the unit did not need to give prior notice.

“Such a response not only violates the bilateral agreement but also undermine peace and stability in the region,” the KNPP said.

Responding to the statement from the state government, the KNPP denied violating any agreements reached at either the state or the Union level since the beginning of the peace process. To the contrary, it was the Tatmadaw that failed to follow the terms of the bilateral agreement, the KNPP said.

“The accusation by the state government is totally false,” the KNPP said.

The KNPP signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government in 2012. Despite coming under pressure by the Myanmar Army and government to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement during ongoing peace negotiations, the KNPP has yet to do so.