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Clashes between the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Karen National Union (KNU), two Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signatories, erupted on Sunday morning in Yebyu Township, Tanintharyi Region.
The skirmishes flared near Alel Sakhan village in Yebyu, according to the NMSP’s chapter chair in neighbouring Ye Township, Mon State, who blamed the hostilities on the KNU by accusing the Karen ethnic armed group of abducting villagers from Alel Sakhan.
“KNU soldiers abducted the villagers. They used the villagers as human shields while they reside in the base. I don’t know why the KNU soldiers abducted the civilians,” Nai Punt, the NMSP official in Ye, told DVB.
DVB was unable to contact KNU representatives to confirm the fighting.
The NMSP signed onto the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) only last month, while the KNU has been a signatory since it was initially inked, in October 2015.
Other members of Burma’s myriad ethnic armed groups have also clashed with each other since 2015, but typically the hostilities have consisted of a signatory versus non-signatory dynamic. Most notably, the NCA signatory Restoration Council of Shan State has repeatedly exchanged fire with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, a non-signatory to the accord.
Conflict between the KNU and NMSP in recent years is not unheard of, however. In September 2016, the two sides also clashed in Yebyu Township, after Karen troops approached an area near a NMSP outpost, and more recently, the two sides came to blows just last month in Ye Township.
The 2016 hostilities were said to be due to a land dispute. The Karen and Mon armies have also clashed in the more distant past for similar territorial reasons, but in 1988 the two sides agreed to end hostilities following negotiations mediated by the National Democratic Front, a coalition of ethnic armed groups.