Govt Helicopter Reportedly Shells KIO Bases

By Saw Yan Naing 3 May 2012

Amid escalating tensions in northernmost Burma, a government helicopter carrying weapons, ammunition and food to frontline troops reportedly started shelling several bases of the rebel Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) last week.

The military helicopter apparently thought that troops from Battalion 3 of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the KIO’s military wing, were planning an assault on a base belonging to a pro-government border guard force (BGF) formally known as the National Democratic Army–Kachin (NDA-K).

One of five Burmese government helicopters shot at KIO strongholds while a group of rebel soldiers was approaching Pangwa, a town controlled by the Burmese government where the Kachin BGF was based. The incident occurred in late April at three bases in eastern Kachin State belonging to the KIA.

In fact, the KIA troops were approaching Pangwa as they were asked by the BGF to come and solve a dispute within its unit members, an official at the KIO’s Laiza headquarters by the Sino-Burma border told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Despite escalating fighting between the Burmese government and KIA troops, leaders of the two sides are preparing for another round of peace talks. However, no place or date has so far been set.

The KIO official said that Railways Minister Aung Min, a leading Naypyidaw peace negotiator, would be heading the government delegation this time around.

In the past, Aung Thaung, another leading negotiator who is considered a hardliner, led the government negotiation team in Kachin State without any tangible achievements. Aung Min, by contrast, has been successful in securing ceasefires with several ethnic key ethnic armed groups including Karen, Shan, Mon, Karenni and Chin rebels.

The KIO approached the Burmese government last weekend about new peace talks in Lwaigyai Township by the Sino-Burmese border. However, the government is yet to respond to the suggestion and is thought to prefer negotiations in the state capital Myitkyina which remains under its control.

Meanwhile, the government will soon re-organize its Union-level peace negotiation team of which one of the two vice-presidents will soon take charge. Government ministers, MPs, army officials and chiefs of states and divisions will also included in team, according to Aung Min.