Armed fighting broke out for reasons unknown between Karen soldiers from Border Guard Force (BGF) unit 1012 and another unidentified BGF unit at their headquarters in southern Karen State on Friday.
Three soldiers were reportedly killed in the clash, according to Karen sources close to the BGF, while an ammunition store and a military barracks were burned down. Ten rifles were sequestered from the ammunition store by unit 1012 during the clash, said Brig-Gen Johnny, the commander of Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 7.
The clash happened at Myaing Gyi Ngu, which is the former headquarters of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a Karen rebel group which has mostly allied itself with the Burmese army despite much opposition to the alliance among its rank and file.
But despite widespread reports that many former DKBA soldiers were unhappy to serve under the control of Burmese army officers, Friday’s incident marks the first reported bloodshed.
Col Paw Doh, of the main ethnic Karen armed group, the Karen National Union (KNU), told The Irrawaddyon Monday: “The fighting broke out on April 22 at about 3 pm. As far as we know, the fighting was initiated by Pa Mee. The soldiers burned down one ammunition store and one army barracks.”
Pa Mee is a commanding officer in BGF 1012 who was a former member of DKBA Battalion 555.
Another DKBA source close to BGF 1012 confirmed to The Irrawaddy that Pa Mee led his men in an attack against another BGF unit.
BGF unit 1012 is formed by formers members of DKBA Battalion 555 who were transferred last year into the Burmese government-controlled BGF.
Meanwhile, sources from Brigade 7 of the KNLA, the military wing of the KNU, reported that 12 Karen soldiers from BGF unit 1016 deserted the BGF and defected to KNLA Brigade 7 on April 21.
The defecting members of the BGF had been based in Myawaddy, and reportedly brought with them four M-16 rifles, six AK-47s, two carbine rifles and one M-79.
According to the KNLA Brigade 7 report, no less than 67 soldiers from BGF units 1015, 1016 and 1019 defected to the KNLA between January and April, most saying they were unwilling to serve under Burmese army command.
On Saturday, DKBA Brigade 5 attacked Burmese Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 212 in Ka Ma Kaung in Papun District of northern Karen State, where they burned down a paddy store and an ammunition store, according to Karen media reports.
Led by Brig-Gen Saw Lah Pwe, Brigade 5 is the largest faction of the DKBA to totally reject the BGF plan. In November, a serious clash broke out in Myawaddy between Brigade 5 and Burmese government troops, forcing 20,000 refugees to take temporary shelter in Thailand.
Armed clashes have continued to date between DKBA Brigade 5 and government troops in the southern Karen State area.