China Issues Kachin Warning as Fighting Intensifies

By Patrick Boehler 4 May 2012

The Chinese authorities have issued a warning for its citizens in northern Burma to heighten security measures due to intense fighting between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“In recent days, the fighting between the Burmese army and local militia in northern Burma has reached new levels, the security situation in northern Burma has worsened,” read a notice by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on Thursday.

The ministry advised Chinese businessmen not to travel into northern Burma and temporarily abstain from investment projects there.

Last Saturday, the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon put out a notice advising citizens against traveling to Kachin State. Chinese citizens already in the area were advised to “take effective action to avoid injury or destruction of property.”

The embassy had not responded to inquiries from The Irrawaddy whether Chinese citizens have been harmed or property destroyed at the time of publication.

One Chinese citizen living in KIA territory, who calls himself Xiao Su, said that Burmese troops launched a major offensive against the KIA around April 7. The aim of the offensive was to take the Kachin rebels’ headquarters in Laiza, by the border with China.

The offensive comes after yet another round of preliminary ceasefire negotiations mediated by China broke down in March. A KIA spokesman said that his group approached the government about new talks earlier this week, although no date or location has so far been agreed.

The Burmese armed forces and KIA blame each other for return to war in June last year when a 17-year ceasefire agreement collapsed. Around 75,000 civilians have since been forced to seek refuge in temporary camps by the frontier.

On Thursday, Xiao Su reported that the KIA managed to stop the government offensive by pressuring army positions near the Kachin State capital Myitkyina. In Kambaiti and several other places, KIA troops are understood to have surrounded army positions. The KIA, he said, has also dispatched commandos into government-controlled territory in order to create disorder behind the front lines.

“Laiza is still safe,” a source told The Irrawaddy on Friday. Last week media reports suggested preparations were being made for a 2,000-man assault against Laiza.

Earlier this week, Burmese central government border, tax, migration and security officials fled from Banwa and Kambaiti areas to Tengchong County in China, Xiao Su said. They were being held there by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in a hotel and are awaiting repatriation.

According to an anonymous Chinese web post, around 1,000 people have crossed into China near Tengchong. The post also quotes a KIA central command order that “Troops near Chibwe and Kambaiti are to provide security to the evacuation of Chinese personnel.”

“In light of the chaotic situation in Banwa, in order to secure the lives of employees and the integrity of the machinery of China Power Investment, the KIA central command has issued the order,” the post read.

China Power Investment Corp is a Chinese state-owned company contracted by the Burmese central government to build dams in Kachin State, most controversially Burma’s largest dam at the Myitsone confluence.

“The Chinese are fully protected,” a source in Laiza said. “We want to be a good neighbor to China.”