Tensions Between Tatmadaw & KNU Remain High Over Road Construction

By Network Media Group
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

A contentious road network under construction by the Burma Army, or Tatmadaw, in Karen State has caused extensive fighting and the displacement of thousands of Karen villagers.

Tensions in Mudraw District (Hpapun township) remain high after the Tatmadaw deployed more troops to areas controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) Brigade-5.

Tatmadaw leaders say they need to expand and connect a road network to transport rations to their bases. They claim the upgraded transportation routes will also bring much-needed development to the area.

KNU general secretary Padoh Saw Tah Doh Moo doubts the Tatmadaw is building them for development.

“They (army) used excessive military forces in our area…we don’t believe it’s operating under a developmental agenda…if it’s a development issue, we have to discuss chapter 6 of the NCA (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement),” said the KNU general secretary.

According to chapter 6: “Planning of projects that may have a major impact on civilians living in ceasefire areas shall be undertaken in consultation with local communities.”

Padoh Saw Tah Doh Moo said that Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Burma Army, was asked to stop the road construction.

“He told us they have to construct it. They’re manipulating the NCA and implementing their policies whenever they want, rather than solving disagreements through the NCA,” Padoh Saw Tah Doh Moo told NMG.

The KNU will continue to discuss stopping it through the NCA, the general secretary said.

“We don’t have huge expectations but we believe in the NCA.”

Meanwhile, the Tatmadaw is sending reinforcements.

“They’ve expanded their military presence in the area around the road construction,” Padoh Saw Tah Doh Moo said, explaining that three strategic military columns, including at least seven battalions, have been dispatched.

Clashes have broken out between Htokalokee and Bawkyolae villages, located in Lay Phohtar village-tract in Dwelo township.

The KNU signed the NCA on October 15, 2015, with seven other ethnic armed organizations (EAOs).

Currently, there are ten EAOs that signed the NCA: Karen National Union, Chin National Front, All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, Pa-O National Liberation Organization, Arakan Liberation Party, Restoration Council of Shan State, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union.