Villagers told Karen News that today, on Tuesday, 1st September, a firefight lasting around 30-minutes broke out at Pae Traw Doo (Paing Kalan Don) village, one-mile from North of Kyate (Kli) village in Kyainseikgyi Township between soldiers from the KNLA 6th Brigade and the Burma Army.
Villagers explained to Karen News KNLA soldiers warned the Burma Army not to cross into designated restricted areas, but the [Burma Army soldiers] ignored the warning and entered KNLA territory, soon after the fighting started.
There has been conflict in the area since August 23 after a combined force of Burma Army and its sponsored militia, the Border Guard Force, tried to return two days later to their abandoned camp at Kyate (Kli) village. The Burma Army camp at Kyate (Kli) village had been set up in 1997 and around 30 soldiers were based there.
On August 28 and 29, fighting started between the Burma Army and the KNLA forcing villagers from Kyate (Kli) to flee and take refuge upstream or at nearby villages to avoid being caught in a crossfire.
A villager told Karen News that he had already had to run three times because of fighting in the area.
“When fighting broke out, I ran and sought safety at other places. When the situation calmed down, I came back home. What else can we do? We are afraid of being caught in the shooting.”
On August 30, Karen armed groups including senior leaders of the Burma Army sponsored Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) who are all active in the area met with village leaders in Azin village to reassure them to stay calm and claimed they didn’t want conflict.
A civilian leader who attended the meeting told Karen News the meeting gave villagers little hope there would not be fighting.
“They told us all Karen groups were taking up arms for the Karen national cause. And there was no guarantee that there will be no fighting in our area. They said, ‘if one side shoots, the other side will shoot back’ – that’s what they told us.”
A local KNU official blamed the Burma Army for the fighting, Padoh Liston, secretary of the KNU’s Dooplaya District in an interview with Karen News blamed the military-appointed State Administration Council’s soldiers for the fighting and said if the Burma Army had respected the restrictions on KNU territory there would not have been any fighting.
“It’s an inevitable, as they’re increasing their military activities in our areas, there will be clashes. It is better if they withdraw from our area. At this point, the recent fighting happened because they continued with their military encroachment into our area.”
Villagers confirmed to Karen News, that an estimated combined force of 200 soldiers, under the command of the Burma Army, is advancing into areas around Kyate (Kli) village. Villagers in the areas fear, as the dry season approaches and gives easier to the region, fighting in the area will increase.