RANGOON — About 200 Kachin civilians in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township have been newly displaced by clashes between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in recent days, according to local leaders and Kachin rebel sources, who said that the fighting erupted after government forces entered a rebel-controlled ruby mining area.
Hla San, a National League for Democracy (NLD) member based in Hpakant town, said he visited the civilians who fled Sai Para village and were provided refuge in two churches in another village located east of Hpakant.
“They have been taking care of by our religious leaders. One church has about 80 people and another church has over 100 people. They ran away from their homes as they were afraid of the fighting,” he said, adding that he and other Kachin leaders from Hpakant delivered food aid to the displaced villagers on Tuesday.
Daung Khar, a member of the technical consultancy team of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the KIA, said the rebels had clashed with the Burma Army last Friday and Sunday at Sabaw Maw, a ruby mine controlled by the KIA.
“According to the news we received, the government troops entered our area of control. This is why our troops shoot at them,” he said, adding that he lacked further details of the fighting.
The Kachin News Group reported that four Burmese soldiers were killed during the violence and that government troops seized a KIA base next to the ruby mine and burned it down.
The KIA has been fighting an insurgency against the Burma Army since mid-2011 when a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down. Since then, some 120,000 civilians in Kachin and northern Shan states have been displaced.
Hostilities quieted down in February 2013, but skirmishes have continued as a bilateral ceasefire between the sides has proven elusive. In recent months, fighting in northern Burma has intensified and several thousand local civilians have been newly displaced.
Fighting has also spread to northern Shan State as government troops have increasingly fought with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), an ally of the KIA that also lacks a ceasefire with Naypyidaw.