Kachin Clashes Continue as Ethnic Leaders Meet

By Nyein Nyein 30 October 2013

Clashes between government troops and the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) continued on Wednesday, local sources said, even as ethnic leaders gathered in the KIO stronghold of Laiza to prepare for nationwide peace talks.

The Kachin Peace Creation Group (PCG), based in the state capital Myitkyina, confirmed that there has been no break in the fighting since it started last Tuesday, trapping thousands of local villagers and forcing hundreds more to flee.

Maran Seng Aung, a member of the PCG, said the group’s leaders and Kachin Baptist Church ministers contacted the Burmese army’s Northern Regional Command on Oct. 23, the day after the fighting started, to inform them of the situation facing civilians in Mansi Township, where the clashes are taking place.

“We have heard that the government troops are now being ordered to let the villagers leave,” Maran Seng Aung told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, local residents in Lashio and Bhamo townships said that some 2,000 troops from 20 government army battalions had been deployed in Mansi.

Last week, fighting near Mungding Pa and other villages in the area left one woman dead and the village head of Nam Phu injured.

According to a report last week by the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, the army was carrying out operations against illegal timber loggers in the area.

The clashes come after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the KIO, eased its control in the area following peace talks with the government on Oct. 8-10, said La Mai Gum Ja, a PCG leader.

“I urge the government army commanders to ease their fire while ethnic leaders are holding an important meeting in Laiza, the KIO headquarters,” La Mai Gum Ja said by phone on Wednesday, warning that the fighting could harm plans to reach a nationwide peace accord next month.

According to relief workers, hundreds of civilians have been forced to flee the latest clashes. Around 400 from the villages of Nam Phu and Ma Khon Yum are currently taking shelter in Mai Hkaung, a village under government control, while another 500 have been travelling to Bhamo on foot since Monday.

“The displaced Mungding Pa villagers will arrive this evening,” Naw Din, the manager of the Karuna Myanmar Social Service Relief Team in Bhamo, said on Wednesday.

Relief workers are also on their way to provide food for displaced villagers in Nam Lim Pa, where around 2,000 people have been trapped by the fighting since last week.