Thousands Flee as Burma Army Attacks Jade Capital

Kachin refugees flee fighting between KIA and Burmese army troops in March 2012. (Photo: Jinghpaw Kasa Blog)

Thousands of Kachin civilians living in villages in Hpakant Township, the center of Burma’s lucrative jade industry, have been forced to flee as Burmese government troops mount an intensifying offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the area.

Fresh clashes that began on Monday have driven people from more than 20 villages to take shelter in 23 churches, monasteries and relief centers in the town of Hpakant, sources said. Local residents estimate the number of refugees at around 6,000, although police officials could not confirm that figure.

The exodus began on Aug. 18, when Burmese troops started moving into the area in preparation for a major offensive. The fighting is currently taking place about 5 km from Hpakant.

Tha Kong, a Roman Catholic priest, told The Irrawaddy that about 800 refugees arrived at his church on Monday. Most are women, children and the elderly, he said, adding that the church is now full to capacity.

A local Baptist Church that is now accommodating 775 people is also straining to cope with the influx, said its pastor, Tu Ja. The most immediate problem: a lack of sleeping space and bedding for the exhausted refugees.

While most of the villagers are heading for Hpakant, some are traveling on to the state capital, Myitkyina. Local relief workers say they expect a fresh wave of refugees into urban centers in the coming days.

Hpakant Township is famous for its jade mines, which produce some of the world’s best-quality jade.  Many of those who have fled the fighting are miners, but many others are farmers.

Some business people and community-based social and relief organizations have been providing food for the refugees, but supplies are not expected to last if they are forced to remain for a long period of time.

Ja Si, a Kachin woman from the village of Balakah and a member of a local branch of the opposition National League for Democracy, said that heavy fighting between the government and the KIA continues in areas vacated by the refugees.

She said that clashes broke out early yesterday morning in Balakah and continued until 3 pm. Some mortar shells have even landed in villages near the conflict zone. She said that only a few men have remained behind to monitor the situation and keep an eye on their property.

A KIA official in Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin rebel army, said that the current fighting in Hpakant comes amid mounting tensions between the two sides over the past few months.

According to Kachin media reports, heavy fighting between KIA Battalion 6 and the government army’s Infantry Battalion 272 broke out at 9 am on Aug. 27 in Hpakant Township and lasted until 4 pm. KIA officials claimed that 17 Burmese soldiers were killed in the clashes and that another 27 have been hospitalized in Hpakant.

The KIA official said that peace talks between the government and the leaders of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, are on hold because the government’s negotiating team still hasn’t responded to an invitation for further discussions.

8 Responses to Thousands Flee as Burma Army Attacks Jade Capital

  1. Who and what are you gonna blame, wretched kachins! Your wealthiness or Succeeding Government’s stake with other countries? It is obvious that there are heavy conflicts in only Kachin, you,and Rahkine where Ruling Government has stakes. But they are quick in securing the piece negotiation with other ethnicities. Government might possibly has his own hardships regarding stakes because of previous regimes. Just feel ill and frustrated for learning that people supposed to be under a nation are killing each other. Wishing conflicts in Kachin are gonna end soon! Save your property!

  2. A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    I just wonder how the leaders from both sides: Burmese Army and Chin armed group, sleep at night knowing that fact that tens of thousands of people lives are at risk due to their decisions to go to war.

    When will both sides pick sense out of their non-sense war?

    The history has brought Burma to the edge of chaos. They both Chin armed group and U Thein Sein’s administration did have and still have a choice; either they jump into this chaos of armed-conflicts or courage it to fail to lead to the other side of in this non-sense war. They both have chosen again and again to jump into it even though they both could have turned this man-made calamity around. It is never too late to do the right things for both sides in order to avoid the war.

    To its absolute worst, the worst thing the Burmese and International community can do is to do nothing, which seems to be happening today unfortunately.

    A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    • The answer is in the hands of Thein Sein. Stop sending troops to the ethnics. Let them represent at Hlutdaws. Let them live in their territories without interference. What the ethnics are asking for is self determination. The Chins, the Kachins, the Shans, the Kayahs, the Karens, the Mons and the Rakhines want to enjoy life and tranquility as the Myanmars on their own lands. Sending troops into ethnic territories will just extend more conflicts. Kachins do not want anything from the Burmese. They just want the Burmese to leave them alone.

  3. Thein Sein fails to prove what he promised to the ethnics. If Thein Sein is not in control of the Defense Ministry, he is just a puppet president. Every ministry must be under Executive Branch under President’s control. So far, Min Aung Hlaing does not care Thein Sein’s leadership in Executive Branch. Why do the Burmese Army attack the Kachins? Where is Peace Thein Sein has been talking about since day one?

    • Hi Mualcin,
      If you say so let me ask you one question.

      Why other ethnic arm group are stop fighting with Burmese Army and why only Kachin Army?

      This case is not just by one side. Both leader need to consider about civilian and soldier in both side.

      Both of these damn leader don’t really care about civilian and their own soldier. Just only know is power and influence.

      • Oh They have??? Let me remind you. There were more than 30 clashes with SSA within a year since ceasefire was singed. There were at least 2 battles took place with KNU since ceasefire signed.

        KIA singed ceasefire 17 years ago. Now, they are defending Burmese Army ATTACK. Or is the Burmese ARMY defending KIA attack? Who do you think is responsible?

  4. It is actually, bloody true that Than Shwe is playing his puppet both President and Min Aung Hlaing according to their internal sources. Believe it.

  5. George Than Setkyar Heine

    As oft spoken Thein Sein is a DUD and a DUMMY since day one until today.
    Min Aung Hlaing (China chosen C-in-C of the Burma Army) is running the show at Naypyidaw at this time and juncture idiots!
    The communists in Beijing paid Than Shwe 30 Billion Yuan for the green light on Myitsone Dam Project and Chinese interests in Burma on the dictator’s last visit to Beijing in 2009 together with his family in tow.
    According to some Palaung activist groups Min Aung Hlaing and his outfit (Burma Army) as well are paid by the Chinese to bring the KIA to its knees for refusing to sanction – the main sticking point in today’s peace talks with the KIA as well – the Myitsone Dam Project, a harbinger of certain death and destruction for the Kachins and all the people down stream in the event of an earthquake (Sagaing Fault Line is barely 100 kms. away).
    Of course the control of the dam would be in the hands of the Chinese no doubt.
    Hence, it is worse than handing over Burma and her people to the communists next door I say.
    Accidental or premeditated release of the waters if not outright destruction of the dam would certainly culminate in no less than a tsunami descending on all the people in Myit-kyi-na only 20 kms. down stream and in turn destroying the Irrawaddy river and all the people in the Delta Region and the Rice Bowl of Burma at the same time no doubt.
    Hence, Min Aung Hlaing will not rest until and unless KIA falls to its knees, any bets?
    Capitulation of the KIA is the first step in China’s road map for subjugation of Burma and in turn hegemony of the region prior to placing the whole world under Chinese communists’ heels no less and ultimately trust me.

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