Insights into the Myawaddy Conflict


Insights into the Myawaddy Conflict

Myanmar Spring Chronicle April 21, 2024, by MoeMaKa Multimedia

The positions of some Karen armed groups remain enigmatic amidst the battles in Myawaddy city.

In the early days of April 2024, as the summer heat approaches its zenith and El Nino looms, clashes between military council troops and KNU/KNLA forces near Myawaddy in Karen State, in conjunction with the PDF Collaborative and DKBA Kolo Htoobo, have intensified. Prior to the Thingyan holidays, the KNU seized the strategic Thingan Nyi Naung battalion camp, signaling their intent to capture Myawaddy before the festivities. Shortly thereafter, the KNU captured the Military Council’s Kha La Ya 275 troop, also known as the city guard unit closest to Myawaddy. Reports suggest that some soldiers from this troop sought refuge under the Myawaddy-Thai Border crossing bridge No. with the assistance of the BGF armed group led by Saw Chit Thu.

Since then, observers have keenly followed developments in Myawaddy, pondering over who will assume control of the city. Questions abound regarding the whereabouts of military council troops and police forces, as well as the implications for border trade and city administration. Despite armed organizations roaming the streets of Myawaddy, no group has yet assumed responsibility for city administration. Civil administration departments, such as immigration at the Thai-Myanmar border gate bridge, remain operational, albeit under the oversight of military council staff organizations.

The main forces in Myawaddy, the KNU, and the KNA, which has evolved from the BGF, face questions about their intentions and potential divisions. Speculation persists regarding the fate of the remaining Kha La Ya 275 troops of the Military Council and their interactions with the KNA. Meanwhile, residents of Myawaddy brace themselves for the possibility of conflict, mindful of the potential devastation to their livelihoods and property.

For armed groups, control of Myawaddy promises lucrative tax benefits, given its position on the main trade route between Myanmar and Thailand. As various Karen armed groups vie for control, questions arise about their unity and overarching goals.

There have been numerous politically correct statements issued among the Karen armed groups, such as the assertion that the Karen people do not wish to engage in armed conflict with each other. However, bloody stand-offs have consistently emerged over the past few decades. Incidents have occurred where multiple Karen armed groups, numbering two or three, have engaged in combat against one another. Such conflicts arose following the split between DKBA and KNU, and again after the transformation into the BGF group, which restructured the local army. The use of divide-and-rule tactics by the Myanmar Military has further exacerbated these tensions, leading to inter-group fighting during Myanmar’s civil wars.

Following the military coup in February 2021, the balance of political and military power in Karen State underwent significant changes from previous decades. Under the guidance of the KNU, and with the growing strength of the PDF column encompassing all Burmese nationalities, the KNU’s control areas have expanded. Despite these developments, organizing unity among the Karen armed groups remains challenging in recent times. Consequently, the question of who will govern Myawaddy town remains elusive, defying easy answers.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that while there is increasing domestic and international interest in the plight of the Karen people, discussions concerning the goals of the Myanmar Spring Revolution and the collective activities of the Spring Forces are not intertwined with the Karen’s battle over Myawaddy. This disconnect represents a setback for the democratic federal aspirations of the entire Myanmar nation, instead reflecting the narrow interests of a single ethnicity. The crucial question remains whether this situation will culminate in a negotiated settlement with the warring factions of Karen armed groups, akin to the Military Council.