The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) has denied responsibility for a mortar explosion that killed three civilians and injured 10 in eastern Burma on Saturday.
Saw Soe Myint, the DKBA’s Myawaddy-based liaison officer, told DVB on Sunday that the attack had occurred at a rest-stop in the Dawna mountains on the Myawaddy to Kawkareik Highway in eastern Karen State.
“We inquired with our strategic commander, Maj-Gen Saw Kyaw Thet, and he reported that our troops were not responsible for the shelling,” he said.
“Our military officers confirmed that our positions are too far to hit Alae Botae,” he added. “And in any case, there are many other ethnic armed groups active in the area [who could have done it].”
He told DVB that his team were working to investigate the blast.
A series of renewed clashes between the DKBA and Burmese government forces broke out last month. Casualties on both sides have been reported.
Speaking to DVB, local sources confirmed that two persons were killed on the spot when a mortar shell landed on the road near a rest-stop in Alae Botae on Saturday morning. Another died later in hospital, while at least 10 persons, including three children, sustained injuries in the blast.
Burma’s state-run newspapers and other media have reported that four persons were killed.
“According to truck drivers [who witnessed the explosion], two street vendors and a traveller were killed in the blast in Alae Botae, which is located on top of the Dawna mountain range, at a popular rest-stop between the towns of Myawaddy and Kawkareik,” said U Naing, the township secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Kawkareik.
“There are rumours flying about saying the DKBA is responsible for the attack, but no one actually knows who did it.”
U Naing said clashes between the two sides have occurred in the area over the past fortnight, and that Burmese units had launched offensives against DKBA positions.
“We heard there was serious fighting yesterday in Ywarthitgone – about three miles from Kawkareik – and that one government soldier was killed and another injured,” said U Naing on Sunday. “Apparently the Burmese troops have captured a DKBA outpost there.”
Nan Khin Htwe Myint, chairperson of the NLD in Karen State, speculated that the government forces may be provoking fights with ethnic armed groups to derail the peace process.“The government has indicated that the 2015 elections can be held only when there is peace in the country, and honestly I reckon they may be provoking hostilities with the armed groups in order to suspend the elections,” he said. “They have used these cunning tactics several times.
“There are various armed groups that have been active in this region for a long time, and they all know how to avoid clashes with each other,” he added. “Just when the local population were beginning to enjoy some peace and stability, the stress has been renewed that they have to flee their homes again.”
The DKBA signed a union-level ceasefire agreement with the government in December 2011. It is led by Saw Lah Pwe (a.k.a. Na Kham Mwe), a former senior commander in the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army who in 2010 broke away from that group to form his own unit which is today estimated to have some 1,500 troops.