Fighting between Karen and Mon soldiers over natural resources and control of territory resulted in one officer wounded by gunfire.
The Karen National Liberation Army and the Mon National Liberation Army exchanged fire near Mann Aung village in Ye Phyu Township on December 20 – a deputy company commander from KNLA was wounded.
According to sources from both groups, the soldiers involved are from the Karen National Union’s, KNLA 6th Brigade, Battalion 16 and the New Mon State Party’s armed wing, the MNLA.
Saw Dah Khu Htoo, the wounded, KNLA deputy company commander spoke to Karen News on 22 December and said.
“It was at the east of Kyaung Sha where four of us were attacked at close range by about 20 of them [MNLA soldiers]. I was shot on my head. We retreated, but the clash last around two minutes.”
The KNU and the MNSP have a history of fighting each other. In 1988 both sides fought bitterly over territory disputes around the Three Pagodas Pass area. After a 20-year with no fighting between the two armies, regional security observers are concerned that the latest clash is the second this year – September 8 and the latest incident on December 20, 2016.
Padoh Saw Maung Shwe, chairman of the KNU Win Ye Township said they have reported the incident to their senior officials.
“We are now contacting leaders from the NMSP. We have our troops in the Mann Aung areas. Maybe they [NMSP] want to regain control over the territory. We should resolve the issue by diplomatic means, not military. We will report this to our seniors for further action.”
The Mann Aung areas falls between the KNU controlled Win Ye Township, Dooplaya District and Ler Doh Soe Township, Megui/Tavoy District where it overlaps the MNSP controlled Ye Phyu Township, Dawei District. In the past the region was prone to territory disputes between the two ethnic armed groups.
Naing Win Hla, the head of Interior Department of NMSP spoke to Karen News.
“We banned logging activities in that areas East of Mann Aung, our troops were on patrol as we heard there was logging taking place. While our troops were checking the place, they confronted each other. Our sources said the logging business is of the KNU, while the workers are Mon villagers. We will try to resolve the issue through our mediation team.”
The KNU and NMSP senior leaders met in September this year after the first clash between the two groups and agreed to solve the problem in peaceful means.
The KNU is among the seven ethnic armed groups that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on October 15, 2015 under the previous Thein Sein government, but the NMSP is among the 13 non-signatories ethnic armed groups.