Hostilities between armed forces is disrupting campaigning for election candidates in Burma’s northernmost Kachin State.
Burma Army and Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A) are in a standoff after the former demanded the latter to remove two military camps in Chipwi Township. As tensions escalate, some expect that clashes will erupt soon.
Tatmadaw set its demands early this month through an official letter sent to KIO/A via Peace-Talk Creation Group (PCG). The Kachin soldiers were given a September 13 deadline to evacuate the area.
KIO/A’s Man Dawng and Hpa La camps are under the control of Battalion-46, which is under Brigade-7.
Zawng Dai, the National League for Democracy candidate for Constituency-9 in Kachin State, suggested that the Burma Army’s actions could be to pressure the KIO/A before the 2020 election.
“They had lots of time (to ask KIO/A to dismantle their camps). Why didn’t they tell them before? Now that the election is coming… I think they’re intentionally doing this. They want to hurt the election.” He called on both sides to avoid territorial disputes during the campaign period.
Ying Hkaw, a Kachin State Democracy Party candidate for Constituency-1 in Chipwi Township, said the armed forces need to negotiate for a peaceful solution to the conflict. “If clashes occur, residents will suffer a lot. It will be difficult for political parties and electoral candidates to campaign.”
“There are not many benefits for KIO/A to maintain its two military camps in the area. And the Burma Army doesn’t stand to gain much if they are eliminated,” Duwa Lamai Gum Ja, from PCG, said. “On the other hand, if the fighting starts because of this, it will cause many problems for civilians.”
The KIO/A told the government it’s willing to negotiate with the Burma Army, Duwa Lamai Gum Ja said. With the rampant spread of the coronavirus across the country and polling scheduled for November 8, he hopes a peaceful resolution will be achieved soon.