Tensions remain high in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township after a bomb exploded in the town on Monday, injuring two people, according to local sources.
The explosion occurred outside the Jade City Hotel, a well-known hotel in the downtown area of Hpakant, located near a military base of the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division (LID) 66.
Shwe Thein, head of the Hpakant branch office of the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that local residents are living in fear following the blast on Monday evening.
“The bomb went off around 6 pm,” he said. “It injured two people but no one died. Burma Army [soldiers] and police were deployed in the town. They formed an emergency checkpoint at the entrance to Hpakant town and searched everyone who entered.”
Recent fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) that broke out in the township on Jan. 15 forced up to 2,000 people to flee their homes, with many taking shelter in local churches.
Local residents are fearful that renewed fighting could erupt at any time. “We have to be on alert since the fighting broke out in Hpakant [on Jan. 15]. We live in worry,” Shwe Thein said.
The NLD official added that mining companies involved in the region’s lucrative jade industry were continuing to operate despite the instability, with Burma Army troops and police providing security.
Reverend Lama Yaw of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) told The Irrawaddy that the two men injured in Monday’s explosion were father and son.
“The bomb hit an old man and his son. We don’t know who is behind the explosion. But we also don’t think it will be disclosed,” Lama Yaw said.
On Jan. 15, a drive-by bombing involving an unknown motorcyclist at a police station in Lone Kin village, Hpakant Township, injured four family members of a police officer.
Local relief groups continue to voice concern for hundreds of villagers displaced in Hpakant with limited access to food, water and medical supplies. Some local sources have accused the military of using trapped villagers as human shields and forcibly conscripting some men into the Burma Army.
“We heard some 80 villagers, all men, were forced to go with Burma Army troops when they attacked the KIA recently,” Zua Naw of Tat Kaung Church in Myitkyina told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
Fresh fighting between Burma Army troops and allied forces of the KIA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) also occurred in northern Shan State’s Namkham and Kutkai townships over the past few days, according to rebel sources.
TNLA spokesperson Mai Aie Kyaw confirmed to The Irrawaddy that fighting had broken out on Sunday and continued sporadically until noon on Tuesday.
Mai Aie Kyaw said government troops attacked TNLA forces when the latter group attempted to destroy a poppy plantation in an area of Namkham Township controlled by the Pansay militia, an influential local militia led by Kyaw Myint, a state-level parliamentarian from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
According to the TNLA’s information department, fighting in Namkham Township on Tuesday began around 8 am between TNLA Battalion 478 and Burma Army units from LID 88. No causalities have yet been reported.
The KIA and the TNLA are the only two major ethnic armed groups that have not signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government.