A clash broke out yesterday between the Myanmar Army and the Karen National Liberation Army in territory held by the KNLA near the site of the planned Hatgyi Dam project in the Mae Tha Wor area, according to Karen sources.
The KNLA reported that two Myanmar Army soldiers were wounded when a landmine was detonated, but this could not be confirmed at press time. The KNLA said it suffered no casualties.
Padoh Mann Mann, a KNLA leader, told The Irrawaddy today that the fighting erupted at noon when the Myanmar Army entered an area held by KNLA Brigade 7.
“We heard that they have begun operations to secure the area as part of their preparations to build Hatgyi Dam,” Padoh Mann Mann said.
He said that the Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, had deployed many troops from their Brigade 4 as well as men from Brigades 2, 5, 6 and 7. Fighting had also broken recently between the Myanmar Army and KNLA Brigade 5 in Papun District.
“We cannot trust the situation because they have deployed a lot troops. We are worried more fighting could break out soon,” Padoh Mann Mann said.
The Myanmar Army says it wants to rebuild an old road in an area held by KNLA Brigade 5, however the KNLA is opposed to the project as it believes that the road is being restored to serve military purposes.
Some 2,000 Karen IDPs from at least five villages have fled from the fighting in Papun District since it broke out last month. They continue to hide in the jungle as they do not feel it is safe to return to their homes.
The KNU, which is the political wing of the KNLA, has actively participated in the national peace process with the government and the Myanmar Army since it signed a ceasefire in 2012. The group also signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015, and has joined the Panglong Conference.
There has been relative peace and some local development in Karen State since the KNLA signed the NCA. The Karen have waged a decades-long civil war with the Myanmar Army and thousands of Karen refugees still remain on the at Thai-Myanmar border in camps unable to return home.
Despite the ceasefire, fighting has broken out sporadically between KNLA units and the Tatmadaw and many ethnic Karen are not happy with the current peace deal with the central government.
Under the NCA, the Myanmar Army needs to seek permission before entering KNLA-controlled areas or to undertake local development projects. According to the KNLA’s Facebook page, the Tatmadaw did not inform the KNLA when they entered the area where the fighting broke out yesterday.