Saturday, October 02, 2010

Burma: Burmese troops clash with Karen, Shan armies

Fighting erupted yesterday between Burmese troops and a breakaway Shan force only hours after a Burmese soldier died following an ambush by a Karen army.

It is the third time this month that Burmese troops have clashed with the Shan State Army (North), with tensions appearing to be on the rise. The latest flare-up involved the SSA-N's 3000-strong 1st Brigade, which broke away from the main body after it refused to become a Border Guard Force (BGF) and assimilate into the Burmese army.

The ruling junta, which is attempting to rein in Burma's multiple ethnic armies, has warned that refusals such as these will be met with force. Casualties from the latest fight, which broke out in Hsipaw township in northern Shan state yesterday morning, are unknown.

It follows an ambush by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) on Burmese troops yesterday morning in which one Burmese soldier died, said Colonel Khin Maung Tun of the KNLA's 6th Brigade.

He said that three columns of Burmese army troops were ambushed "between Apalon and Myaing Thaya" in Burma's eastern Karen state, about 22 kilometres from Payathonzu, across the border from Thailand's Three Pagodas Pass.

Three Burmese troops were killed and six wounded after a similar clash in Karen state's Hlaingbwe township, he added.

The conflict between the Burmese junta and the Karen National Liberation Army has stretched over six decades, and is thought to be one of the world's longest running. Both the Karen and Shan armies are vying for autonomy from the military government.