Fighting broke out between the Burma Army and Karen fighters in Papun Township, northern Karen State on February 24, over claims that the government soldiers had violated a ceasefire agreement.
The dispute began when the Burma Army transported food rations to its frontline bases. Karen National Liberation Army officers in its 5th Brigade told Karen News that the Burma Army had little respect for the agreed rules and claimed it had deliberately provoked the conflict.
Brigadier Saw Mu Hae, commander of the KNLA 5th Brigade said that the Burma Army was to blame for the conflict.
“The rule is that they [Burma army] are to use only people and horses when they transport their food rations in the demarcated area under our control. But they came up into the area using bulldozers, oil-carrier trucks and troops. If they had followed the [agreed to] rules and shown mutual respect, this incident wouldn’t have happened.”
A Burma Army motorized food convoy was confronted by KNLA 5th Brigade soldiers in Lu Thaw Township.
In an earlier meeting of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, Joint Monitoring Committee – Union level that is composed of both Burma Army and ethnic armed group representatives, the committee’s vice-chairperson General Ya Pyit, blamed ethnic armed groups – naming the Shan and Karen – for activities that are against the rules according to the recently signed NCA.
The Karen National Union’s joint secretary Padoh Mahn Mahn responded to the allegations by pointing out that both sides, the government and the armed groups, are breaking the NCA rules.
Speaking to Karen News, Padoh Mahn Mahn said.
“The NCA stated that both government troops and ethnic armed groups must not take in new recruits or increase its areas of control. This was not agreed [NCA] that only one side was to obey to. We see government troops increase their deployment in our areas and they are constructing routes that could be used for offensive operations.”
A ceasefire code-of-conducts between the two sides was signed on November 18, 2015 in Nay Pyi Daw. The code-of-conduct details what the military can or can’t do, rules regarding civilians, troop deployment, free travelling zones and other related issues.
Karen News had no success contacting the local Burma Army unit based in the fighting area for their response.
There are 24 Burma Army Battalions in the KNLA 5th Brigade area of Papun District. Since the signing of the preliminary ceasefire agreement between the government and the Karen national Union in 2012, as many as 30 clashes between the Burma Army and KNLA soldiers in the 5th Brigade have been recorded.