Tensions between KIO and government high after army shelling

Lah Nan (right), KIO's spokesperson

The situation in Kachin state remains tense after a recent round of shelling directed at the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)'s armed wing last week by army units stationed in the area. The army fired shells towards KIO positions more than 30 times on February 11th and 12th. The shells were fired from army posts located at Hka Ya Bum, Bum Re Bum and Hpun Pyen Bum near Laiza. According to the KIO's chief spokesperson Lah Nan the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) did not respond to the military's deliberate provocation.

“The Burma army's artillery shelling began in the early morning around 4 am on February 11th. The shells appeared to be 81 mm” said the KIO’s chief spokesperson.

More than 1,000 students who were preparing for their exams at their school in Alen Bum, next to a KIA post, had their studies disrupted by army shelling. Laiza residents are now worried about the possibility of further fighting. KIA units have observed that the army recently sent a large number of reinforcements to its positions around Laiza.

Lah Nan predicts that there could be more clashes soon because the Burma army had also been moving a large number of troops along the Myitkyina to Bhamo road in apparent preparation for further fighting.

“Further heavy fighting could happen, they (Burma army) will say that the reason is that the KIO doesn’t want peace, but from our side we still have not fought back. If we respond then heavy clashes will occur” Lah Nan said.

Burmese government authorities have still not provided any answer to the KIO's questions regarding the November 19, 2014 artillery shelling of the KIO’s officer training school which left 23 cadets dead and another 20 injured.

The KIO issued a statement on Union Day February 12th indicating that the group wants to continue to pursue a ceasefire deal through Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), a group consisting of most of the major ethnic armed groups in Burma

The KIO did not take part in the Union Day ceremony even though the group received an invitation from Burma's President Thein Sein to do so. This is because the group did not want to endorse the MOU that Thein Sein's officials had asked participating groups to sign.