Burmese Army Breaches Karen Ceasefire


source from Irrawaddy news, 14 March 2012

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KNU soldiers march to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of Karen Revolution Day at Oo Kray Kee Township in the Karen State in January 2012. (PHOTO: Reuters)

Karen sources told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that Burmese government forces have breached a two-month-old ceasefire by attacking the frontline positions of the Karen National Union (KNU) in Papun District, northern Karen State, on several occasions in recent weeks.

Htoo Klei, the secretary of the Karen Office of Relief and Development, which operates in conflict zones in Karen State, said that several clashes between KNU rebels and government troops have broken out this month.

He said incidents have also been reported of Burmese soldiers patrolling KNU-controlled routes and stepping on landmines.

The news comes after a formal ceasefire between the two sides was signed on Jan. 12.

Htoo Klei said that villagers displaced by the conflict are still too afraid to return home as the Burmese army has expanded its presence in northern Karen State.

Local villagers told The Irrawaddy that the government has increased its supplies of military hardware in the region, and has beefed up its frontline positions close to KNU outposts.

A Karen refugee named Htoo Htoo, who recently visited his family at an IDP camp in Papun District in northern Karen State, said that he witnessed some 80 trucks on Jan. 15 carrying food and military supplies to Burmese army outposts in northern Karen State close to KNU Brigade 5 bases.

KNU troops said they have witnessed government troops transporting military supplies by boat on the Salween River since the ceasefire was signed.

Many villagers in Karen State say they are very worried about the breakdown of the ceasefire. They said they fear reprisals by government troops.

Meanwhile, another ethnic rebel militia, the Shan State Army–South (SSA–South), said that it too had defended itself recently against Burmese army aggression despite reaching a ceasefire agreement with a government delegation in December.

It said separate clashes between the SSA–South and government forces broke out on March 11 when government units launched attacks against Shan rebel outposts in Mong Yawng in eastern Shan State and in Kyaukme in northwestern Shan State.

The SSA-South responded with gunfire only after it has been attacked several times, said spokesman Maj. Sai Lao Hseng.

“We have learned that the government troops will attack us at any time,” he said. “We cannot trust them. But we have ordered our troops only to fire in self-defense.”

Heavy fighting has also been reported on Monday between the Kachin Independence Army and government troops in northern Shan State, two days after failed peace talks concluded in China.

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