Myanmar Regime Forces Clash With Ethnic Kachin Fighters in Shan State

By The Irrawaddy 17 February 2023

Myanmar military soldiers clashed with fighters from the ethnic armed organization the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) earlier this week in northern Shan State, prompting the KIA to warn that tensions between the two sides are escalating in the area.

KIA information officer Colonel Naw Bu told The Irrawaddy that junta troops clashed fiercely with the KIA in the northeast of Kutkai Township in northern Shan State between February 13 and 15.

Col Naw Bu said: “They have only retreated a little from the front line. Military tensions are running high. It is likely that they will fight back.”

A combined force of military regime soldiers from the 99th Light Infantry Division and pro-junta militia from Muse Township in Shan State marched in three columns into Kutkai on Monday, leading to clashes with the KIA’s Battalion 9 along the border of Muse and Kutkai townships.

After suffering heavy casualties, the regime forces called in three airstrikes on Wednesday, according to the KIA. Three Myanmar military battalions based in Kutkai, at 105th Mile in Muse and in Namphatka in Kutkai provided artillery support during the fighting, added the KIA.

“I don’t know about casualties. I heard they [junta forces] suffered heavy casualties on Wednesday. But we can’t still confirm that. The KIA might have suffered casualties as the clashes were fierce,” said Col. Naw Bu.

A resident of Kutkai said: “Clashes took place outside the town along the road to Muse. One clash happened just three or four miles outside the town. Another happened around 20 miles from the town.”

However, no local residents in the area fled to Kutkai Town during or after the fighting, said a local villager.

Sources monitoring the military situation is northern Shan State said that the regime forces were conducting clearance operations in the area and had no intention of carrying out large-scale attacks in Kutkai.

Apart from the KIA’s Brigade 6, which includes the KIA’s Battalion 9, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army are also active in Kutkai. The regime risks clashing with those groups while carrying out clearance operations in the area, said the sources.

Junta troops previously clashed with KIA Brigade 6 in the south of Kutkai on September 8 last year, with the regime launching airstrikes against KIA outposts after the fighting.