RANGOON — Burma’s Armed Forces continued their offensive on Kachin Independence Army (KIA) positions in Kachin State’s Mohnyin Township on Thursday, firing artillery rounds since 7 am, according to locals.
KIA spokesperson La Nan told The Irrawaddy earlier this week that Kachin forces had already abandoned three bases in the township since Saturday, after “intense” attacks launched by government troops who utilized a jet fighter, helicopter gunships and ground artillery.
Information Minister Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy on Thursday the government had no plans to call on the Burma Army to cease its offensive operations in Mohnyin, citing the need to protect public security in the area.
He said the KIA’s 8th brigade had only been based in Mohnyin for around 12 months.
“The fighting will stop if the KIA troops go back to their place,” Ye Htut said. “As the Tatmadaw is doing what they need to protect the security of the people in Mohnyin, we won’t ask them to stop.”
Thursday’s attack came exactly one year since government troops shelled a KIA training camp near the group’s headquarters in Laiza, killing 23 cadets from various ethnic armed groups.
Local religious leader and Mohnyin resident La Nan—who has the same name as the KIA spokesperson—told The Irrawaddy around 300 villagers had fled their homes on Thursday and were temporarily sheltering in his church.
In Kachin State, government troop deployments increased in Mohnyin, Putao, Sumprabum and close to Laiza and Hpakant in the lead-up to the country’s Nov. 8 general election, according to Lamai Gum Ja of the Kachin Peace Talk Creation Group, an organization involved in mediating ceasefire negotiations with the government.
Lamai Gum Ja said Burmese troops had accused the KIA of attacking the military’s Battalion No. 141, a claim the Kachin armed group denied.
Ye Htut said the recent clashes underlined the fact that the KIA did not want to be a part of the “nationwide” ceasefire agreement that was signed between Naypyidaw and eight armed groups on Oct. 15.
Several of the country’s most formidable non-state armed forces have not signed the agreement, including the Shan State Army-North which has also been subject to intensified Burma Army offensives in recent weeks.
The KIA’s La Nan told The Irrawaddy the armed group would show restraint in the face of continued Burma Army attacks.
“We want peace, and we are willing to march toward political dialogue and keep trying to proceed,” he said. “We will resist if the government army gears up its offensive. [But] after this conflict, we will not attack their battalions as revenge.”