Kachin State Fighting Escalates as New Front Opens

By Saw Yan Naing 14 December 2012

As the fighting between Kachin rebels and the Burmese army intensifies in northern Burma, the military tried to open another front on Friday, according to Kachin sources. They reported that government artillery units and helicopters launched attacks in the Lajayang area nearby the rebels’ headquarters, located on the Burma-China border.

Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) spokesman La Nan said army helicopters could be seen and heard from the KIO headquarters in Laiza, as they pounded Kachin ethnic rebel bases in the hills around Lajayang.

“We heard gunfire and mortar shelling from our headquarters. It is the first time they came to fire at our bases near Laiza by using aircrafts,” he said. “The government troops approached our bases as close as four to seven miles from our headquarters, and fired at our bases. They used both air and ground forces.”

La Nan said fighting broke out in the Lajayang region early Friday morning at 5:30 am, as the military launched a heavy attack using three Russian-made Mi 24 helicopter gunships, while ground troops opened artillery fire on Kachin Independence Army (KIA) positions in the region using 105 mm M2A1 howitzer.

“We now informed all our troops in strategic bases to be on high alert as we worry that they [government army] will open more frontlines in the war,” said La Nan, who added that the KIA’s ally All Burmese Student Democratic Front has come to strengthen defense positions in Lajayang region.

Some Burmese army troops were stuck in positions at the frontline in Lajayang region and the military had sustained heavy casualties at the hands of Kachin rebel forces, La Nan claimed, adding that about 40 soldiers died during recent fighting in the area, which falls under KIA Brigade 5’s control.

After a month of calm, the government had sent troops from the Light Infantry Battalions 388, 389 and 40 to try to pressure Kachin forces by open another frontline in Lajayang, he said, adding that it had done so in order to reduce pressure on its troops in the Pangwa region.

Fighting there had escalated in the past week and the Burmese military reportedly sustained heavy casualties in Pangwa, where La Nan estimated 20 government soldiers were killed and injured, along with two KIA soldiers.

During recent fighting, the government army has been accused of using a rocket launcher, the Carl Gustaf, which is produced by Swedish arms manufacturer Saab Bofors Dynamics, according to a Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet newspaper report by veteran Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner.

KIA rebels said they found rocket shells from the Swedish-made launchers after two army helicopters fired on their bases and refugee camps for civilians displaced during the conflict. The KIA rebels said they recovered one of the launchers.

The Swedish government said it had spoken with Indian officials about the Swedish weapons that had been sent to Burma via India in violation of an European arms embargo.