YANGON — The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) says the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, launched a second offensive against its forces in Kachin State’s Tanai Township on Saturday.
“They started a military offensive again in the Tanai area. Their offensive this time is heading toward our KIA Battalion 14,” Colonel Naw Bu, a spokesman for the ethnic armed group, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
“There was a strong military push on March 5 and 6,” he said.
The Tatmadaw launched its first offensive against the KIA in January, seized some amber and gold mining areas in Tanai and driving hundreds of ethnic Kachin out of the area.
“They could not reach the area KIA Battalion 14 controls during their first offensive, so they are trying to get there this time,” Col. Naw Bu said.
“They [the Tatmadaw] used only ground forces this time to attack our troops. They have not used the air force yet,” he said, adding that the KIA battalion was pushed back from some areas in the past few days.
Locals said the fighting has prevented them from reaching their paddy fields and that Tatmadaw checkpoints around the town of Tanai, home to some 900 displaced Kachin, were hampering their travel. They said they heard shelling throughout most of Monday and Tuesday.
“The fighting is quiet today, but we could hear explosions from artillery all day on March 5 and 6,” said Naw Tawng, a Tanai resident helping the displaced families.
The Tatmadaw will celebrate Armed Force Day on March 27 in Naypyitaw. It has often launched offensives against the area’s ethnic armed groups ahead of the annual event, at which it typically hands out awards to soldiers who have distinguished themselves in the fighting.
Another of the armed groups, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), reported a clash with the Tatmadaw on Thursday in northern Shan State. It said the Tatmadaw has brought some 50 trucks to the area for what it believes may be a full-on offensive against the TNLA.
The TNLA says it engaged with the Tatmadaw in 14 clashes last month.