Myanmar Military Battles Ethnic Armed Group in Kachin State

By The Irrawaddy 16 September 2021

Fighting has been reported between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and junta troops in Tanai Township, Kachin State in northern Myanmar.

The ethnic armed group and the Myanmar military have been clashing on the strategic Tanai-Shingbwiyang Road since September 7, after regime soldiers attempted to retake control of Tarong Village, which lies along the road, said KIA information officer Colonel Naw Bu.

“The clashes happened because the Tanai Regional Operations Command of the Myanmar military advanced towards us. There have been three clashes on the road. If they continue to advance towards our troops, there will be further fighting,” he added.

The Irrawaddy was unable to obtain a comment from the military regime about the fighting.

Junta troops were previously stationed in Tarong Village, withdrawing from there after the February coup, according to locals. KIA troops arrived later and stayed in the village to levy taxes on the cargo trucks and passenger buses that travel the Tanai-Shingbwiyang Road, said residents.

Hundreds of junta troops have since marched from Tanai towards Tarong Village, reported locals. On September 7, the KIA used landmines to ambush an advancing military column.

Map showing Singbwiyang and Tarong villages.

Clashes continued over the next two days, before the KIA troops withdrew on September 10. Junta soldiers have since retaken control of Tarong Village.

“The military occupied Tarong on September 10. Four battalions entered the village. All of them are now staying at the village monastery because their original base had already been torched by the KIA,” said a local resident.

Junta troops summoned the village elders and faith leaders and threatened to raze the village if the KIA attacked them. The faith leaders have since written to the KIA, asking the armed group not to attack the village.

Regime troops are preparing to rebuild their bases in Tarong Village and near the Tanai-Shingbwiyang Road, said locals. Some residents of Tarong fled to Tanai Town after junta troops arrived in the village.

“They [junta troops] entered the village at night. A villager was outside on a bridge without knowing they had arrived. He was beaten to death. The same night, some villagers fled by car to Tanai and junta troops opened fire on the car. A woman passenger was injured when a bullet shattered one of the car windows,” said a villager.

Two hunters from Lajarbum village on the Tanai-Shingbwiyang Road were also detained and beaten, with junta soldiers accusing them of being KIA fighters after they were stopped with their traditional hunting rifles.

Locals were told by the junta troops that they had come to the village to stop the KIA from taxing vehicles in the area.

The Tanai-Shingbwiyang Road links Kachin State’s capital, Myitkyina, and Nanyun and Pansaung in the Naga Self-Administered Zone in Sagaing Region. It is the main route for transporting food and fuel supplies. Cargo trucks are still travelling on the road as the clashes are not serious, said locals.

KIA fighters have also clashed with junta troops in Waingmaw, Injangyang, Hpakant, Momauk, Shwegu, Bhamo and Putao townships in Kachin State.

There has been frequent fighting between the KIA and the Myanmar military since a bilateral ceasefire broke down in 2011. Clashes stopped for two years before the February 1 coup.

Since March 11, the KIA has attacked regime troops and police stations in Kachin and northern Shan State, inflicting heavy casualties on junta forces. The military regime has responded by bringing in thousands of reinforcements, moving some close to the KIA headquarters in Laiza, Kachin State, while also targeting the KIA and innocent civilians with air and artillery strikes.

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