Military Presence Grows in Hpakant Amid Further Clashes

By Nyein Nyein 25 June 2015

Burma Army troops have boosted their presence in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township amid renewed fighting in the jade-rich northern town.

Residents of Hpakant and nearby towns where the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)’s battalion 6 operates said the number of Burma Army troops in the area had risen following fighting last week which drove some 100 villagers from their homes.

“More troops are present in downtown Hpakant, near monasteries and in almost every part of the town over the last two to three days,” said Hpakant local La Seng.

The latest fighting between the Burma Army and the KIA occurred on Wednesday near the Tada Nyi Naung bridge between Kamaing village and Hpakant, according to KIA spokesperson La Nan, with no casualties reported.

Since early June, around 300 Burma Army troops repeatedly attacked KIA battalions 6 and 11 and captured several KIA posts, according to La Nan. He said one KIA soldier died during a skirmish near Lone Kin village in Hpakant.

“They took control of our bases and they have been using artillery to clear the area,” La Nan said, adding that government troops were trying to disrupt supply routes to the rebel group.

“Even when there are no [direct] skirmishes, the of their artillery can be heard all the time,” he said.

Win Naing, a resident of Namti, some 110 km southeast of Hpakant, said more government troops were patrolling the Namti-Hpakant road, as well as the Tanai-Ledo road, and had established additional checkpoints.

He said that villagers in Lone Khin and Kamaing in Hpakant Township, and in Tanai Township, were particularly concerned by the growing military presence as they traveled from their homes to work on farms.

The recent military buildup also follows a bomb blast in Hpakant on June 17 which injured two police officers. Two other explosions were reported on the same night, with the perpetrators still unknown.

La Nan said the KIA had tried to communicate with government representatives of the conflict negotiation committee to ease tensions but had only received a stern rebuke. He said that government committee members accused the KIA of being behind the recent bomb blasts in Hpakant—a charge the KIA spokesperson denies.

La Nan warned that further Burma Army troop deployments would only lead to more clashes in the long-running conflict that entered its fifth year earlier this month.