Troops from the Kachin Independence Organization's (KIO) armed wing have clashed repeatedly with government forces in both Kachin and northern Shan states over last few days. The clashes come ahead of a renewed push by President Thein Sein to secure a National Ceasefire agreement by the February 12th Union Day holiday.
The clashes in Shan state started on January 12th and took place in areas controlled by Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Battalions 2, 36, and 38 according to Captain Zau La of KIA Brigade 4 (all three of the battalions are in the 4th Brigade).
According to the KIA captain, the clashes broke out because of aggressive actions carried out by army units stationed in areas between the border town of Muse and Kutkai. Army units across northern Shan state have been reinforced since the beginning of year in what appears to the KIA to be a coordinated effort to push them out of the area.
“Since the new year, we saw reinforcement come from Kutkai, Muse and Theinni (also Sinli). And there have been clashes since yesterday because they (Burma army) came and attacked us and fired artillery,” captain Zau La told the the Kachinnews during an interview conducted on January 13th.
Zau La predicted that the clashes would continue as the Burma army appears to determine to hit KIO targets in the area. “In the evening they renewed their strength with a lot of trucks carrying artillery, so it seems there will be heavy fighting very soon,” he predicted. There is no information about the causalities from either side, but according to local residents the KIA lost a front line post in northern Shan state because of the recent attacks.
Meanwhile in the jade rich Hpakant region of Kachin state clashes broke out on Thursday the 15th of January, they followed an incident on Wednesday in which the Kachin transport minister, Kamann Du Naw was reportedly detained by KIA forces. According to state owned media a car carrying Kamann Du Naw that was on the road from Hpakant was stopped by KIA forces although the minister was eventually released three police officers who were travelling with him remain in detention.
The fighting in Hpakant began on Thursday in the early morning at around 6 am, according to Major Tang San from KIA Battalion 6. Major Tang San says that the clashes began after three battalions of Burma army stormed the KIA’s Battalion 6 camp in Aung Bali village. The army shot heavy artillery at the base more than 60 times.
“Fighting started since about 6 am this morning after about 300 troops (Burma Army) headed to Aung Bali village and we defended. They are using 81 mm and 105 mm artillery but mostly firing with 81 mm from the other side of Uru River. The 105 mm is coming from another camp,” the major said.
About 1,000 villagers including 200 students and 21 school teachers are trapped inside the village as the Burma army has blocked all the exists from the village. The army has also refused to allow Christian church leaders and residents from Hpakant city to enter the village to assist those who are trapped said Tsa Ji from the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG).
“They (Burma army) surrounded the village and there is artillery shelling there. They also have troops stationed all the way to Tang Hkawng village. No one comes in or out of the the village, so it is really bad situation for the villagers, students will lose their education,” said Tsa Ji.
The Fighting continued till around 2 pm. According to unconfirmed reports on social media the Burma army captured the village and the KIA Battalion 6 army camp later that day.
The three police officers who were travelling with the minister are expected to be released soon however their release has been complicated by the fighting, Major Tang San told the Kachinnews. Government officials including the office of Burma's Ministry of Information have already indicated that they want those detained to be released immediately.
The KIA unit at Aung Ba Lay village has been under pressure from government authorities since October 2014 when senior officials from the Burma Army's Brigade 66 ordered the KIA to remove their army post from the area. The KIA refused to do so and tensions have been high ever since.
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