Karen, Mon armed groups clash in southern Burma

Karen, Mon armed groups clash in southern Burma

The New Mon State Party reported clashing with the Karen National Union in southern Burma’s costal Tenasserim Division on Wednesday.

According to the Mon ethnic armed group, the conflict in Dawei district’s Yebyu township in the early hours of Wednesday was provoked by the KNU, which allegedly attacked an NMSP outpost in the area.

“The clash broke out around 6am in a wooded area called Thechaung — they [the KNU] came and attacked our outpost,” NMSP liaison officer Nai Yo Chan told DVB by phone.

Both NMSP and KNU personnel are active in the area where the clash took place, which has been the site of sporadic territorial disputes over the past year after the latter became a signatory to the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government. The NMSP has abstained from joining the accord, which was inked in October 2015.

Nai Yo Chan said there were no casualties on either side in Wednesday’s hostilities.

Territorial spats between the KNU and NMSP are long-running in southern Burma. Armed conflict between the two broke out over territorial claims in 1988, but they subsequently reached an armistice, mediated by the National Democratic Front ethnic armed group coalition, which both groups were members of at the time.

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This week’s fighting marks the second altercation between an NCA signatory and a non-signatory since the agreement’s signing. The Restoration Council of Shan State, a signatory, and the non-signatory Ta’ang National Liberation Army came to blows in Shan State less than a month after the accord was signed on 15 October 2015, with hostilities between the two flaring intermittently since then.

Eight non-state armed groups signed the NCA in 2015, with about a dozen others — including some of the country’s most formidable — either withholding their signatures or shut out of the accord. Signed during the previous government’s term in office, the agreement is also being prioritised by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who has urged the holdouts to sign it as the peace process moves forward with “national-level political dialogues” and the second iteration of her 21st Century Panglong Conference, the latter expected to convene next month.

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