The Irrawaddy

Fighting in Kachin State Heats Up

KIA troops drive their motorbikes while on security patrol at a mine site in Kachin State in June.

YANGON — Fighting in Kachin State between the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, has intensified in recent days, according to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The latest round of clashes erupted in late November.

Colonel Naw Bu, spokesman for the KIA, said he did not know how many people have been killed or injured in the latest fighting but added that there have been daily clashes with regular shelling by the Tatmadaw in the townships of Bhamo, Mansi and Tanai.

He said the Tatmadaw was shelling near Laiza, the headquarters of the KIO, on Dec. 14 and 15 and that it deployed fighter jets against KIA sites in Mansi a few days ago.

The fighting has driven many local villagers from their homes, especially in Tanai, forcing them to stay with relatives or to seek shelter in churches and monasteries, as local government officials have blocked the creation of more camps for displaced families since August.

“The continuous fighting has made travel for locals difficult,” added Lamai Gum Ja, spokesman for the non-government Peace Creation Group in Myitkyina, the state capital.

Col Naw Bu said the latest fighting cast further doubt on the prospects of peace talks between the KIO and government.

“Our aims are different even though high-level officers on both sides are talking about peace, so we cannot move forward with negotiations,” he said.

Before the NLD took power early last year, the Peace Creation Group helped prevent clashes by providing each side with advance notice of the other’s troop movements.

“But now the path to negotiate for both sides is disappearing,” said Lamai Gum Ja,

Since hostilities between the Tatmadaw and KIA resumed in 2011, he said, fighting has typically intensified every December.

Last week, police raided the offices of the KIO’s Technical Assistance Team in Myitkyina in connection with the seizure of more than 1,000 bullets earlier this month at a private residence in Karen State. The couple renting the residence was arrested in Myitkyina, where they live.

Spokesmen for the Tatmadaw could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

However, in a Facebook post on Friday, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief said the army had to continue operations in the area because of recent activity it blamed on the KIA, including a landmine blast on Dec. 14 that injured one man at an amber mine and the burning of nine trucks transporting dirt near Dun Bum village on Dec. 15 for allegedly failing to pay the KIA extortion money.