An armed ethnic group in Myanmar known as the Karen National Liberation Army seized a military outpost near the Thai border Tuesday in a sign civil conflict will continue even as the junta pledged over the weekend to end the violence.
The KNLA, the armed wing of Karen National Union (KNU), — the oldest ethnic armed group in Myanmar — attacked a military border post in Thaw Le Hta near Thailand’s northwestern town of Mae Hong Song, resulting in several casualties, Saw Taw Nee, head of KNU’s Foreign Affairs Department, said by phone Tuesday.
The attack comes after Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who orchestrated a military coup on Feb. 1, agreed to an immediate cessation of violence during a special summit on Saturday of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Since overthrowing the civilian-led government, the junta has killed more than 750 protesters throughout the country with nearly 3,500 others detained or sentenced to prison, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
There was no immediate comment on Tuesday’s attack from the Myanmar military.
Saw Taw Nee said more than 30,000 residents have fled to safe zones since the national army, or Tatmadaw, conducted deadly air strikes in March. At the time, fighter jets came out in retaliation for an attack by the group on a military base in which 10 soldiers were killed and another eight were captured.
Earlier this month, close allies of Myanmar’s detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi joined with ethnic groups to form a new unity government, escalating the chances of a prolonged conflict with the junta. As part of its formation, members were also pushing for the formation of a union army to take on the military. Saw Taw Nee said at the time that such an army is “essential,” though it would take time as negotiations are ongoing.
“The junta is making people live with fear in the mainland as well as in KNU-controlled areas,” he said. “We, the KNU, accept forming the federal army in principle, but it is not realistic it will be formed in a short period of time.”
“Only when the rights we are asking for can be guaranteed will the federal army become a reality,” he said.