Fighting Worsens in Kachin State, Dozens Reported Killed

By Saw Yan Naing 11 December 2012

Fighting between the Burma Army and ethic Kachin forces in northern Burma’s Kachin State has heated up in recent days, according to Kachin rebels, who claim to have killed dozens of Burmese government soldiers.

“Fighting seems like nothing new [now], it occurs every day,” said La Nan, spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

Scores of Burmese soldiers were injured or killed during fighting on Dec. 9-10 in different places controlled by Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Brigades 1, 2 and 5, he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

La Nan said the army was making emergency helicopter flights to evacuate casualties and to resupply troops with additional weapons and ammunition.

James Lum Dau, the KIO’s deputy chief of foreign affairs, claimed that a total of 60 Burma soldiers were injured or killed during heavy fighting between the army and KIA Brigade 5 in two areas in southern Kachin State during the weekend.

In areas under control of KIA Brigades 2 and 5, fighting has intensified due to an influx of Burma Army troops, as the number of government battalions rose from 20 to 140, according to KIO sources.

Some of the fighting also centered on the strategically important Pan Wan region controlled by KIA Brigade 1, located close to the Burma-China border. Clashes have escalated here since Dec. 1 after the army ordered units from its Light Infantry Division 88—battalions 13, 77, 260 and 301—to wipe out KIA positions.

La Nan said KIA rebels suffered significant casualties in Pan Wan, with four rebels killed and 15 injured since Dec. 1. He said KIA troops retook frontline posts in the region on Tuesday morning, which it had lost to the Burma Army’s Infantry Battalion 74 and 77 on Aug 20.

As the fighting in Kachin State rages, there seem to be no signs of ceasefire talks or political dialogue betweens the warring parties. The KIO said it had tried in vain to start a political dialogue with government peace negotiators, offering to meet on Oct. 30.

Aung Min, the head of the government peace team, has publicly agreed to a dialogue with the KIO, but no arrangements have been made so far. The recent fighting seems to have shattered any hope of an end to the conflict in the near future.

“They have no honesty. When the government talks about peace, the army launches an offensive on the ground. If they are honest, then we are ready to settle for peace,” said James Lum Dau.

The current 18-month-old conflict erupted after a 17-year ceasefire agreement broke down between the two adversaries in June last year. It has since displaced tens of thousands of local villagers.

The UN has not been allowed to provide relief to people in KIA-controlled camps and it estimates that about 39,000 are outside of central government territory. Relief groups put this number as high as 60,000. A top UN official requested the government on Friday for UN access to the camps.

Kachin relief groups have highlighted how IDPs remain desperately in need of warm clothing and blankets now that the winter months have arrived.

A total of about 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting and are living in either government or KIA-controlled camps, according to aid agency estimates.