Fighting between Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops and those from a government backed People’s Militia Force broke out in Kachin state’s Kampaiti last Tuesday March 22nd. The clash appears to have been triggered by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Third Regiment’s efforts to eradicate opium in the area.
The People’s Militia Force, known in Burmese as pyithu sit, that operates in the area is loyal to longtime New Democratic Army Kachin (NDAK) leader Zahkung Tin Ying. Reached for comment Lt-Col Naw Bu from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) Central Headquarters in Laiza told the Kachin News Group that fighting broke out between the KIA’s opium eradication taskforce and the People’s Militia Force near Htang Maw Hkang village, which is close to Ngwa Le, the base of the KIA’s Third Regiment.
“It’s quite sure. We haven’t been informed in details yet but it’s quite sure that fighting broke out,” he said.
A citizen journalist, My Tsaw Kasa, confirmed to KNG that fighting took place for about an hour near Htang Maw Hkanng village, which is located northwest of the road to Kampaiti.
Lt-Gen Naw Bu said the KIO launched its poppy eradication program in Kampaiti and Sadon last week. These areas are home to thousands of acres of opium cultivation and fall under the territory of the Burmese government’s Border Guard Force (BGF) and the People’s Militia Force, both of which emerged from the NDAK, who officially transformed into a BGF in 2009.
“The KIO/KIA regularly carries out anti-narcotic tasks in line with our policy, but we have started carrying this out within our reach in those areas”, Lt-Gen Naw Bu said.
Last month a squad of activists from Patjasan,a Christian Kachin anti drug vigilante force, was heavily attacked with gunfire and bombs by local opium farmers, BGF troops , and the People’s Militia Force when it came to destroy opium farms in Kanpaiti area. The violent February 25th attack on the unarmed Patjasan members resulted in the halting of its poppy eradication program.
Although troops from the KIA’s Regiment 3 have started destroying opium farms in the Kampaiti area, it remains unclear however whether they will be able to fully carry out this task due to local opposition.
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