US Embassy Issues Warning After Clashes in Burma

By Jared Ferrie 1 October 2014

RANGOON — The US Embassy in Rangoon on Wednesday issued a warning to its citizens traveling in eastern Burma after clashes between the military and ethnic minority rebels.

Various rebels groups have battled the central government in Burma since shortly after its independence in 1948. While the government has in recent years struck ceasefires with almost all factions, clashes occasionally flare up.

The US Embassy said incidents over the past week included a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a bus in Karen State and the discovery of two improvised explosive devices in the Karen State town of Myawaddy on the border with Thailand.

“If you see something suspicious, leave the area immediately and report it to local authorities,” the embassy posted on its Twitter account. “Do not touch, move, or tamper with any suspicious package.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the bus and Burmese officials have not said if there were casualties.

Media has reported clashes during the past week between the military and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and a faction of the Karen National Union (KNU), ethnic minority guerrilla factions that have ceasefire agreements with the government.

Burma’s military and government officials were not available for comment.

Thailand put its troops on the border on high alert this week because of the clashes in Karen State, said Paradorn Pattanathabutr, a security adviser in the office of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

On Monday, Thailand closed the border crossing between the western Thai town of Mae Sot and Myawaddy, one of the main crossing points between the two countries. A Thai official told Reuters on Wednesday that the border was open again.

The latest round of peace talks between the Burmese government and an array of ethnic minority guerrilla factions ended on Friday without agreement on a nationwide ceasefire.

Most of the rebel factions have been battling for greater autonomy under a federal system.

Burma’s semi-civilian government, which took over in 2011 after nearly 50 years of military rule, has made signing a national ceasefire a part of its reform program.

“We are confident that we are now getting close to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace,” Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin told the UN General Assembly on Monday.

But an officer in the KNU, Col. Ner Dah Mya, said the government should be aware that the latest clashes could undermine the effort to seal a national agreement.

“The fighting that has happened could destroy the peace talks,” he told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Somjit Rungjumratrusamee in Mae Sot.