Gunfire erupted on Thursday, 8 September, in the vicinity of Tae Chaung Village, Yebyu Township, Tenasserism Division, between Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) after more than 27 years of ceasefire.
The last clash between the KNLA of Karen National Union (KNU) and MNLA of New Mon State Party (NMSP) was back in 1988 fuelled by a land dispute over the Three Pagodas Pass area, on the Thai-Burma border.
KNLA and MNLA spokespersons stated that their troops didn’t start firing at the opposing unit first and that no one in their unit was wounded.
“Because they passed over the territory, we sent a moderator but could not negotiate. So, both sides started firing at each other from far away. However, it was not on purpose,” said Padoh Win Khine, who is in-charge of Tavoy District’s KNU Liaison office.
The clash damaged several houses in Tae Chaung village including the village administrator’s house, according to locals of Tae Chaung Village.
“It is still a complex issue between us due to land disputes in the area. However, this did not take place on purpose,” said Nai Win Hla, who is in charge of NMSP’s Home Affair Department.
The area, in the east of Ah-laeSakhan Village Tract, Yebyu Township, is where the NMSP’s Tavoy District forces are powerful, while it is also connected to the KNU’s Myeik-Tavoy District controlled area.
On August 24, Saw Zee Zi, secretary of the KNU’s Myeik-Tavoy District, sent warning letters to village administrators in Yebyu Township that the KNU troops would be active again in the area. The letter included that the KNU aimed to take back its originally controlled area. The KNU already signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government and decided would go back to its territory. It did not aim to be involved in clashes and cause fears or concerns amongst the villagers in the area.
Nai Win Hla also said that the NMSP informed Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, State level Joint Monitoring Committee and Minister of Tenasserism Division Border Security to avoid further disputes between the two groups.
The tension was high between the two groups in August when the NMSP, which stopped cutting down the trees in Ye Chaungphyaya area, did not allow KNU troops to carry timber across NMSP’s territory. Shortly afterwards, KNU troops set up their gate at Mayan Chaung Bridge.
The KNU signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government. The NMSP has only signed at the state level and union level but not the NCA with the government.