Despite KNU and Civilian Protests, Burma Army Pushes Ahead with Road Building in Kyaukgyi – KNLA Warns of Increased Tension Leading to Conflict

The Burma Army, ignoring the concerns and objections of both the Karen National Union and local villagers, are planning to move ahead with plans to build road in Kyaukgyi Township of Eastern Bago Region.

Despite local residents and the Karen National Union’s rejection of its plans to build the road, the Burma Army have secured government funding for its ‘local development’ project.

A statement on the website of the Office of Defense Ministry on March 31, 2019 confirmed the Burma Army’s position to continue its road construction project through Than Bo – Mu Thae – Baw Sae Kho – Pla Kho – Yunsalin in Kyaunkgyi Township.

Local communities affected by the road construction have rejected it. KNU officials from Nyaunglebin District claimed the road building will go through their control areas and said negotiations they had with the military had failed to reach an acceptable position.

Colonel Myo Aung, spokeperson for the Southern Military Command said the budget had been secured and the construction will go ahead as it is part of local development plans.

“We have got budget for this road and this road is for local development. We only use the road once to transport food supplies for soldiers during dry season. The rest of the time it will be used by local people for their benefit. As we continue the construction, we will continue our consultation with both villagers and the KNU.”

Tatmadaw [Burma Army] sources claimed the route will connect Kyaukgyi Town and Tuangoo Town as they are now upgrading about 52 miles of road and plan to widen it from 12 feet to 34 feet.

On February 22, local villagers wrote an objection letter to the KNU’s Nyaunglebin District officials expressing their objections to the road upgrade by the Burma Army. The KNU’s Nyaunglebin official also informed the Burma Army of their opposition to the road upgrade.

Brigadier General Saw Eh K’Lu Thein, Commander of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) 3rd Brigade told Karen News that tensions would increase if the road construction goes ahead without common agreement.

Speaking to Karen News, Brigadier General Saw Eh K’lu Thein said.

“We met once with them [Burma Army] about the road construction. We told them not to do it and they said they can’t stop as the order came from their superiors. If the construction continues, the situation could result in clashes or threaten stability in the region. They want to build the bridge, but we didn’t allow them to do it. Construction work for the bridge has stopped – this is a good sign, but if the construction work on the road continues, it will create more problems.”

On March 21, tensions were high between the two armies over the construction of a bridge at Mu Thae which resulted in the displacement of 13 households over fear of armed clashes.

On February 23, a Burma Army bulldozer driver was shot over disagreements about road upgrades in the area.

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