MYITKYINA, BURMA – This week saw Burma's military send hundreds of reinforcements to Kachin state, in preparation for an apparent renewed offensive against positions held by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). A total of three train loads of reinforcements arrived in Myitkyina on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to eyewitness at the Kachin state capital.
While the exact number of soldiers who arrived on the trains from Mandalay is unknown, witnesses estimate that the total number of troop arrivals is in the hundreds or low thousands. Shortly after the trains arrived a convoy of at least 20 military trucks was seen carrying soldiers from Myitkyina to the jade rich region of Hpakant.
In addition to the troops sent to Hpakant, some 700 troops were sent to government positions near the KIO's headquarters at Laiza, according to a KIO officer stationed there. Trucks carrying large numbers of government troops were also seen heading to Putao (or Putau), in the north of Kachin State and Danai in the west.
Fighting in the Hpakant area has increased over the past few months as Burma's army tries to reestablish control of the region's lucrative jade mines, many of which have fallen under the control of the KIO. KIO officials in the Hpakant area tell the Kachin News Group (KNG) that there are at least 70 troops stationed at a Buddhist monastery located in Nam Ya on the main road between Mogaung and Hpakant. There are also more than 140 army troops at nearby Ma U Pyin village, and an additional 60 troops from Light Infantry Division No. 88 based at Hka San near Kamaing, according to local villagers.
Hpakant is the world’s only known commercially viable source for true jadeite, a fact that makes control of the area a top priority for Burma's military and the KIO.
Over 300 Kachin villagers flee from Burmese military column on Hpakant-Mogaung road
Last week 300 Kachin villagers from 57 families took shelter at a Roman Catholic Church at Nam Sheng on the Mogaung to Hpakant road.
Nearly the entire village from Hka San fled to the nearby church shortly after about 60 troops from Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division No. 88 arrived in their village. The unit has an infamous reputation for carrying out atrocities against Kachin civilians.
According to church officials the Kachin villagers ran away out fear they would be arrested and used as army porters. The UN has estimated that between 6,000 and 10,000 internally displaced people are currently sheltering in the Hpakant area.