Heavy fighting between KIO and army reported in Mansi township

KIA soldiers take position at a frontline near its Laiza headquarters in Kachin State, Northern Burma

The Kachin News Group has learned that heavy fighting between Burma army troops and those loyal to the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) broke out Monday morning in Mansi township in eastern Kachin state. The clashes took place in Laika Zup Ja village, two miles away from Mai Hkawng village.

This area, which is close to Kachin state's border with China as well as the boundary line with Shan state, has seen heavy fighting on numerous occasions since the Kachin ceasefire ended in June 2011.

The latest clashes have resulted in more than 140 civilians living between Mai Hkawng and Nam Lim Pa being forced to flee over the past 24 hours. This is a particularly difficult time for villagers to flee, most of whom are small scale farmers, as late September they are busy tending to their rice and other crops.

Clashes continue as NCA deadline nears

The latest round of fighting takes place just days after senior leaders from the KIO, including the group's vice chair KIO's N'ban La met with President Thein Sein on September 9th in Naypyidaw for discussions relating to the ongoing peace process. Thein Sein's government is pushing for the KIO and the other groups to sign a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) before the upcoming November elections.

Thein Sein appears keen to capitalize on the NCA in order to elevate his standing amongst both Burma's electorate and the international community at large. A goal that has received a boost from UN Special Envoy Vijay Nambiar who has been strongly advocating for the armed groups to sign. Nambiar, a former Indian diplomat also served as UN envoy in a similar role in Sri Lanka during the final months of that country's lengthy civil war, appears to have alienated many of the Burma's ethnic armed groups with his not so subtle advice that they sign on to the ceasefire.

The army appears to want to gain as much territory as possible in anticipation of what is expected to be at least an official end to hostilities. In addition to Mansi Township clashes have also taken place between the KIO and the army further north in Sumprabum Township and in Shan state. The army has also recently clashed with the Shan State Army South (SSA) in eastern Shan state, despite this group's leadership having already promised to sign on to the ceasefire.

It remains unclear at this point if the KIO will sign on to the NCA. Much of the Kachin public remains very skeptical of this effort having experienced the KIO's previous 1994 to 2011 ceasefire with the central government.

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