Junta jets launched airstrikes four times in February in Myanmar’s northernmost township of Putao in Kachin State, where clashes between regime troops and the combined forces of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and local People’s Defense Forces (PDF) have been ongoing for a month.
The latest airstrikes took place in Sum Pi Yang in Putao.
“The junta launched airstrikes on Shanegut Bum Hill in Sum Pi Yang, where fighting intensified on the ground on Tuesday,” said Colonel Naw Bu, the KIA’s spokesperson.
Col. Naw Bu told The Irrawaddy that junta jets have been in action four times since February 3.
Military tensions remain high in Putao with hundreds of displaced villagers from Sum Pi Yang, Lon Sha Yang and N’si Yang still sheltering in the forest, according to locals.
A few villagers managed to reach Putao Town or Myitkyina, the Kachin capital, which is 330 kilometres south of Putao.
However, locals said that most refugees fleeing Sum Pi Yang and Lon Sha Yang are unable to pass military regime checkpoints.
While Putao saw the most serious fighting in Kachin in February, there were also fierce clashes in the jade town of Hpakant, as well as in Bhamo and Mansi. Junta jets also launched airstrikes against KIA bases in Hpakant and Tanai townships.
KIA spokesperson Col. Naw Bu didn’t disclose casualty figures, but local media reported that at least 10 regime soldiers were killed on February 27 alone.
Last week, the road connecting Putao and Myitkyina was closed, causing a shortage of goods in Putao and a spike in commodity prices, especially for petrol and diesel fuel.
On Wednesday, the road reopened but traffic was limited to goods and petrol trucks from 6am to 5pm, said Putao PDF, with only a driver and his assistant allowed on each vehicle.
Putao PDF warned traders not to transport any military-linked products such as beer produced by military-backed breweries or military equipment and weapons.
For now, the people displaced by the clashes are unlikely to be able to return to their villages.
“It may be difficult for the villagers to return to their homes at the moment. They will have to wait and see how the situation develops as the other side’s [junta] troops are still in those areas,” said Col. Naw Bu.
“People in the fighting areas must be careful whenever they travel. The junta uses civilian vehicles to transport their goods and military equipment. Therefore we closed the road for the people’s safety,” added Col. Naw Bu.
Telecommunications are also restricted in Putao. Myanma Posts and Telecommunications SIM cards barely work, while the Telenor network was shut down for a week until Tuesday. The Ooredoo network has been inaccessible for two weeks, and only the Myanmar military-backed Mytel network is currently accessible, according to a Putao resident who wished to remain anonymous.
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