KNLA, Tatmadaw Clash Again as Fighting Spreads in Hpapun District

By Nyein Nyein 15 March 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Tatmadaw troops exchanged fire near Wah Tho Kho village in Kama Maung sub-township, Hpapun district, Karen State on Thursday afternoon, local sources said.

The clash, which broke out around 1 pm, lasted about 15 minutes after Myanmar Army soldiers under Military Division No. 22 came into contact with troops belonging to the KNLA’s Brigade No.5. There were no casualties, according to the local source.

Padoh Saw Shwe Maung, secretary of the Karen State Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee, told The Irrawaddy that the JMC was informed of the clash at 1:20 pm.

Thursday’s skirmish was separate from another standoff also involving KNLA Brigade 5 that has seen the two sides clash at least eight times since Mar. 4, most significantly on Mar. 8, after the Tatmadaw resumed construction of a road in Hpapun district, according to local sources.

Until early March, there had been almost no fighting in those areas since the Karen National Union, the political wing of the KNLA, signed bilateral and national ceasefires with the government in Yangon five years ago.

On Mar. 8, KNLA Brigade 5 sent a letter of complaint to the union-level JMC over the Myanmar Military Southern Command’s deployment of troops in KNLA-controlled areas to resume the halted-road construction.

The KNLA said in its letter that it viewed the Tatmadaw’s plan to re-start the road building as preparation for military operations in order to expand the area under its control, as the local residents did not use the route.

KNLA Brigade 5 said the action of the Southern Command was a violation of Clause 8 under Session 2 and Clause A under Section 3 of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), and warned it could impact the peace process.

Padoh Saw Shwe Maung said his group had raised the issue with persons of authority in both armed forces, in accordance with the principles of the NCA.

In the 20 months since the JMC-s Karen State was established, the monitoring body has received over 100 complaints from the administrative body, the Tatmadaw and the KNU, according to the JMC-s secretary. The latter’s objections have been fewer, as most of the complaints were related to administrative affairs, land and taxation issues, he said.