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The Karen National Union (KNU) and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) clashed in Tenasserim’s Yebyu Township on Thursday in the first clash between the two major ethnic armed groups since they agreed to cease hostilities 28 years ago.
Khin Maung Oo, the administrator of the village of Yapu in Yebyu, said the groups briefly exchanged gunfire near the village of Thechaung, about six miles away, on the afternoon of 8 September after KNU troops suddenly approached an area near an NMSP outpost.
“The fight between the KNU and NMSP broke out near to Thanlwin Creek in Thechaung village at around 1:40pm on [Thursday]. As far as we know, the NMSP has an outpost in the area and they clashed with the KNU troops when they arrived in the village without giving them a heads up,” said Khin Maung Oo.
He said a KNU fighter was reportedly injured in the gun battle, which lasted about 10 minutes.
The outpost belongs to the NMSP’s 2nd Battalion, which is based in the area, where the KNU has also reportedly been active.
Naing Aung, the coordinator of the NMSP’s liaison office in Mon State’s Ye town, said tensions between the KNU and NMSP troops in the area have been high recently due to a land dispute.
“There have been tensions over a land dispute, which I think was due to an error when measuring the land. Officials from both side are now engaged in negotiations on the matter,” said Naing Aung.
Saw Be Leh, the KNU’s commander in Mergui (Myeik), said he was not aware of the situation as he had been visiting Thailand.
The NMSP and KNU saw armed clashes in the past due to a territorial dispute, 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.
The KNU in October of last year signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government, but the NMSP to date has remained a non-signatory to the accord.