A proposed one-day ceasefire yesterday between the Burmese junta and Karen troops fell apart as fighting broke out some 30 kilometers from Burma’s border with Thailand.
Three Burmese troops died during the clash with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), dashing hopes of a ceasefire to mark International Peace Day and a rare show of dignity amidst one of the world’s longest-running civil wars.
According to Saw Phaw Doh, commander of Battalion 101 in the KNLA’s Brigade 7, fighting began around 9am yesterday close to Kyaw Thalay Koh village in Karen state’s Hlaingbwe township. A second clash occurred near Mae Htaw Dalay village in Myawaddy township, resulting in the death of a KNLA solider, he said.
Yesterday was the latest in a string of attacks, with fighting having erupted on 18 and 19 September between the KNLA and a newly-formed Border Guard Force. The joint-secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU) – the political wing of the KNLA –Saw Hla Ngwe, said that casualties from both incidents are still unknown.
“We really wish we could discuss about the peace with the international community,” Saw Hla Ngwe told DVB. “There will be a good outcome if the Burmese government shows its goodwill, otherwise we will be forced to keep on defending our people and continuing our fight.”
The KNLA remains on of the few armed ethnics groups in Burma not to have signed a ceasefire pact with the Burmese military, which has ruled the country in various guises since 1962. The Karen army was formed shortly after British rule of Burma ended in 1948, spurred on by a pledge by the British to create an independent Karen homeland that failed to materialise.
Meanwhile, in nearby Myawaddy yesterday evening, around 30 troops from the pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) surrounded a police station and demanded the return of allegedly smuggled vehicles that were confiscated by police.
Troops from the Burmese army arrived at the scene and forced the DKBA to withdraw after 40 minutes, a source close to the Myawaddy police said.
“[The DKBA soldiers] thought they would get their vehicles back like the last time [they were confiscated],” said a local Myawaddy resident. “But this time, the army showed up and said they would be shot if they don’t leave so they fled.”