DVB Multimedia Group

Mon, Karen national ceasefire signatories clash in southeast Burma

Soldiers from the New Mon State Party participate in a firing drill.

A clash between soldiers from the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Battalion 16 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) reportedly erupted over the weekend near Mahn Aung village in Ye Township, Mon State. The skirmish flared eight miles away from the village.

“The fighting lasted just for a short time. I was told that there were no casualties,” said Nai Win Hla, a spokesperson for the NMSP.

“The fighting erupted around noon on Saturday. I heard that the KNLA lost two firearms in the battle. I haven’t heard whether there were any casualties,” a Mahn Aung village local told DVB.

DVB was unable to contact Battalion 16 of the KNLA to confirm the fighting.

If true, the armed confrontation is of particular significance and unexpected, given that both ethnic armed groups are party to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The NMSP signed onto the accord just recently, while the KNLA — the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) — has been a signatory since the NCA was initially inked, in October 2015.

Other members of Burma’s myriad ethnic armed groups have also clashed with each other since 2015, but typically the hostilities have consisted of a signatory versus non-signatory dynamic. Most notably, the NCA signatory Restoration Council of Shan State has repeatedly exchanged fire with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, a non-signatory to the accord.

Fighting between the KNU-KNLA and NMSP in recent years is not unheard of, however. In September 2016, the two sides clashed in Tenasserim Region’s Yebyu Township, after Karen troops approached an area near a NMSP outpost.

The 2016 hostilities were said to be due to a land dispute. The Karen and Mon armies have also come to blows in the more distant past for similar territorial reasons, but in 1988 the two sides agreed to end hostilities following successful negotiations mediated by the National Democratic Front, a coalition of ethnic armed groups.