Mon and Karen Leaders Agree to Halt Clashes

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Leaders of ethnic Mon and Karen armed organizations have agreed to cease fighting after holding a meeting on Wednesday to discuss a recent flare-up of clashes in southern Karen State.

Representatives of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) agreed to seek solutions to their disputes through dialogue.

“We agreed to stop further clashes. We also agreed to solve problems through dialogue. We are going to explain our agreement to the ground-level forces. Today, we also agreed to live in unity,” Lt-Col M. Seik Chan, the commander of the NMSP’s Battalion 5, told NMG.

According to the lieutenant colonel, leaders from both groups ordered their forces to retreat from the location of the recent clashes.

Fighting between the NMSP and KNU occurred in Balae Donfive village in Payathonsu sub-township on October 17 and 21. Representatives from the KNLA Brigade 6 and NMSP’s headquarters held three meetings and observed the location of the clashes.

“Both sides need to follow our agreement. If we do that, we can avoid further clashes. Both sides have a responsibility,” Lt-Col Saw Shwe Win, commander of the KNLA’s Battalion 16, told NMG.

The recent fighting saw casualties on both sides.

Mon political analyst Min Min Nwe said that territorial disputes between the NMSP and KNU need to be resolved through discussion.

“Both parties need to be careful of hate speech and cynical speculation by third parties who don’t want unity among the Mon and Karen,” he explained.

The NMSP and KNU initially engaged in intense clashes over territory in 1988. Fighting did not reignite until 2016, again over territory, as well as issues concerning timber smuggling. The groups have had at least six clashes in Tanintharyi Region’s Yephyu Township in recent years and in Mon State’s Ye Township.

Both organizations are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the Burmese government and military. The NMSP signed it in February 2018, and the KNU signed it in October 2015.