Airstrikes, Ground Offensives Continue in Kachin, Shan States

By Saw Yan Naing & Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 17 November 2015

RANGOON — The military’s recent escalation in Shan State has continued its spread into southern Kachin, with local ethnic armed group sources saying they have been subject to air attacks and skirmishes on the ground.

On Monday, the Burma Armed Forces deployed a jet fighter, helicopter gunships and ground artillery to bomb a base belonging to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), according to the group’s spokesperson La Nan.

“The attack yesterday was very intense,” he said. “They shelled our abandoned bases and used extraordinary efforts with an airplane, artillery rounds and ground troops.”

“Two helicopters flew to boom the bases around noon. They were firing and shelling it until 5pm. This is not a rumor. They are really attacking. They have used air support in almost all of their offensives,” he added.

The attacks began on Saturday after a sharp build-up of Burma Army troops in Monhyin Township, leading the KIA to abandon two bases in the area over the following 24 hours. Outnumbered, the insurgent group also abandoned its 8th Brigade headquarters on Monday morning, located around 4 miles from Mohnyin town.

“We abandoned the 8th Brigade headquarters as they strongly attacked us with heavy artillery,” said La Nan. “We had no choice but to withdraw our troops. They used planes to fire at us from a distance while we only had small arms.”

He said that details of casualties were not available as of Tuesday morning, but at least two KIA soldiers had been injured from the shelling. The KIA has received unconfirmed reports of some wounded Burma Army soldiers arriving in Mohnyin town.

Around 200 residents of the Aung Thabyay village tract are reported to have arrived in Mohnyin town to take refuge in local churches.

The Myitkyina-based Kachinland News agency reported on Sunday that the Northern Regional Command, based in the Kachin capital, had warned the KIA that it would attack the group’s Laiza headquarters on the Sino-Burmese border if it was unable to explain a recent skirmish between Burma Army soldiers and insurgents on the road between Myitkyina and Bhamo.

Meanwhile, the military has continued its attacks on ethnic Shan rebels in Mong Hsu township with fresh aerial assaults and ground offensives. Local sources and human rights groups say around 10,000 civilians have fled their home in the area since the latest round of clashes began on Oct. 6.

The Burma Army has reportedly deployed at least one helicopter gunship, which flew over Mong Hsu town and fired on Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) positions and nearby villages on Saturday, providing aerial cover for a fresh ground offensive.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which operates in a large swath of territory in northern Shan State, also reported fresh attacks from the Burma Army over the weekend.

The KIA has been at war with the military since June 2011, following the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire, despite the current government’s attempts to broker a ceasefire agreement with most of the more than 20 ethnic armed groups across the country.

Neither the KIA, SSA-N, or TNLA signed the government’s “nationwide” ceasefire agreement in Naypyidaw last month, which was ultimately signed by only eight non-state armed groups. Of those, only the Karen National Union and Restoration Council of Shan State had significant fighting forces.