Civilians Injured in Ongoing Fighting in Hpakant

By Lawi Weng 1 July 2015

RANGOON — Scores of civilians fled their homes on Wednesday while others were caught in the crossfire as conflict between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township continued over recent days.

Clashes on Wednesday morning near the small town of Ka Mai, around 55 km north of Hpakant, prompted some 80 villagers to flee their homes, according to a KIA officer.

Tun Aung La, a Burmese police officer in Ka Mai, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that five civilians were shot and injured on June 29 in Kyauk Maw, around 25 km further north of Ka Mai in Hpakant Township, as they were caught in the middle of a firefight between the Burma Army and the KIA.

“Their car was right in the middle of the fighting. They were shot and received treatment at Mo Gawng hospital,” said Tun Aung La, adding that he did not know which side was responsible for wounding the civilians.

Col Tang Seng from a KIA battalion based near Hpakant told The Irrawaddy that Kachin troops did not shoot the civilians and that the area where the incident took place was not under KIA control.

The colonel said the situation in Hpakant Township was very complicated and that fighting had repeatedly broken out when government troops entered KIA-held areas.

“If they didn’t enter our areas, there would be no fighting,” Col Tang Seng said. “They fired on one of our bases this morning. They fired 12 times using 120 mm artillery. Many of their troops approached our base.”

Clashes in Hpakant Township have sporadically occurred since early June, KIA spokesperson La Nan  HYPERLINK “http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/military-presence-grows-in-hpakant-amid-further-clashes.html” told The Irrawaddy last week, when Burma Army troops captured several rebel positions.

Amid heightened tensions, a string of bomb blasts also  HYPERLINK “http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/2-police-injured-by-bomb-blast-in-hpakant.html” occurred in Hpakant on June 17, injuring two police officers, with the perpetrators still unknown.

Burma Army troops have been deployed along the road from Hpakant to Ka Mai, close to KIA bases, according to Col Tang Seng.

“Their troops have taken positions along the side of the road; there are many of them there. Fighting will break out again soon if they come close to our bases. We are prepared to fight,” Col Tang Seng said.