One Dead, Three Hurt in Shelling Near KIA HQ

Simon Roughneen Contributor

LAIZA, Kachin State—One man was killed and three people wounded—two seriously—after Burmese shelling of locations close to Lajayang, a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) outpost about 10 miles (16 km) from Laiza, the rebels’ headquarters, on Thursday morning.

The dead man was named as Maji Tu Ja, a 42-year-old farmer. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Laiza Hospital amid harrowing scenes as his wife and family chanted and wailed as his body, wrapped in a tarpaulin, was lifted off the back of a KIA truck.

The man was repairing his car in a field when the shell landed nearby, according to relatives.

The other three, hit by a second shell, were tending to watermelon gardens in the same area. Lamong Kailing, a schoolteacher and mother of two, suffered several shrapnel wounds and internal bleeding. Clearly in agony, the 25-year-old screamed and contorted on a hospital table as doctors and nurses struggled to restrain her.

Dr. La Seng said that the woman could need a blood transfusion, but added that though serious, her injuries were “not likely to be life-threatening.”

The third injured person to arrive at the hospital, Marip Ma Seng, has shrapnel wounds to his leg. Without flinching, he lay face down on a hospital bed as doctors stitched up his calf, where a chunk of flesh had been blown away. The 53-year-old also sustained a fibula fracture.

La Seng says that “it might be necessary to amputate his lower leg, but it’s not clear just yet.”

A fourth civilian casualty, Lama Lu, a 53-year-old woman, had minor shrapnel wounds to her feet and ankle, according to doctors.

But in the hospital’s mortuary room, relatives of Maji Tu Ja were inconsolable as medics cleaned the man’s body.

According to family members of the injured, at around 10:20 am on Thursday morning 105 mm shells landed in fields about 100 meters from KIA positions at Lajayang, a mile from where a fierce battle took place on Dec. 14, resulting in dozens of Burmese troop casualties and the loss of a government post a mile farther down the road.

The shells were likely fired from Hang Kai, about five miles (eight km) range from where the devices landed, according to KIA officials who arrived at the hospital.

The KIA and Burmese government have been engaged in an escalating conflict since June 2011 when a 17-year ceasefire between the two sides collapsed, with around 100,000 people having been made homeless to date by the fighting, which has largely been on-off skirmishes at scattered outposts across the mountainous, resource-rich northern region of Burma.

But recent clashes close to Laiza has prompted night-time curfews in the rebel’s capital and a growing sense of a town under siege, feelings that will likely be exacerbated by these latest traumatic scenes at Laiza Hospital.