Fighting between Myanmar’s army and a group of ethnic rebels broke out on Monday in southern part of the country prior to a meeting later this month between government representatives and armed minority groups to discuss a final nationwide cease-fire agreement.
The clashes between Myanmar troops and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) lasted throughout most of the day in four areas in Kayin state along a highway that connects Myanmar with Thailand at Myawaddy, said Captain Saw Three Htoo of the DKBA.
“The government army opened fire on us with heavy weapons at 10:40 a.m., but did not attack us with ground troops at that time,” he told RFA’s Myanmar service. “The troops began attacking us at 2:30 p.m. until now.”
Government troops seized a 19-year old Karen girl during the fighting, the DKBA said, although there were no reports of casualties or injuries.
Another clash occurred on Saturday when fire was exchanged after government troops demanded that the DKBA remove a security and toll station in the state’s Kawkareik township near the Thai border, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy. Two civilians were injured.
Trying to make amends
DKBA and government officials will meet on Tuesday in the state capital Hpa-An to try to end the hostilities.
Representatives from the Karen National Union (KNU) will serve as mediators.
Zaw Min, the state’s chief minister, had originally scheduled the conference for representatives from the government, DKBA, KNU and another armed ethnic group to discuss the imposition of tolls along the Asia Highway, a major trade and commuter transportation route, the report said.
Last month, leaders of Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups formed a special 15-member team to discuss changes and supplements to a draft nationwide cease-fire agreement during a summit at KNU headquarters.
Aung Min, the government’s chief negotiator and chairman of the Myanmar Peace Center, said last Friday that the government did not want any changes to the draft accord but that the 12 amendments proposed by ethnic representatives could be added to the text’s appendix, The Irrawaddy reported.
The special 15-member team met with government representatives last weekend in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to discuss the signing of a final peace deal.
After the meeting, Aung Min said the two sides would hold further discussions in Myanmar during the third week of July.
Zipporah Sein, the head of the special team and vice chairperson of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy that both sides also would continue to discuss the issue of three ethnic armed groups—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—that are engaged in ongoing clashes with the government army in the Kokang region of northern Shan state.
Reported by Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.