News – Kachin News Group
THURSDAY, 20 AUGUST 2009 14:56
There was a face off between troops of the Burmese Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) soldiers in Burma’s northern Kachin State about two weeks ago but a clash was averted. The stand off came even as the KIO and the junta are locked in discussions over their demands, said sources close to KIA.
The clash was about to occur when the Burmese soldiers encircled the KIA’s battalion 6 based in Seng Ra in Hpakant jade land. Later the Burmese soldiers were surrounded by the KIA soldiers, said residents of Hpakant.
A gun battle between the two sides was narrowly averted because the permission to open fire by KIA’s battalion 6 commander Major Yawngba Shawng was not granted by Maj-Gen Gunhtang Gam Shawng, chief of staff of the KIA based in the Laiza headquarters on the Sino-Burma border in Kachin State, said sources close to KIA’s battalion 6.
In the stand off, the Burmese troops were led by Col. Than Aung, commander of the Hpakant-based Military Strategic Command. Reinforcements were sent from the Kachin State’s capital Myitkyina, said Hpakant sources.
According to Hpakant residents, the face off between the KIA and Burmese troops follows a dispute between the KIA’s battalion 6 commander Maj Yawngba Shawng and the Burmese Army’s Hpakant strategic command commander Col. Than Aung over the July 4 and 5 severe floods and landslides in Hpakant.
A day after the floods and landslides the KIA’s battalion 6 commander and his officers went to the office of Tit Tone Lone jade company in Hpakant, which was mainly responsible for the flooding and mudslides in Kalajaung quarter in Hpakant by its jade mining activities. They threatened the company’s officials with showing pistols because they refused to clear the roads in the affected areas, said residents. The threats by KIA’s battalion 6 were to force the jade company to clear the road blocks. It came after the Hpakant Military Strategic command commander Col. Than Aung rejected the request by KIA’s battalion 6 to instruct jade companies to clear road blocks, said KIA sources.
Col. Than Aung said he could not order the jade companies to take up rescue work and clear road blocks because he was not authorized by the Naypyitaw military junta brass, said residents of Hpakant.
After the threat to Tit Tone Lone jade company by KIA’s battalion 6, the KIA’s battalion 6 commander Maj-Yawngba Shawng and Hpakant Military Strategic Command Commander Col. Than Aung met for several days in Hpakant, said Hpakant sources.
Hpakant jade land was controlled by the KIA and its political wing the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) before it signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese junta on February 24, 1994.
Since then, Hpakant jade land is totally under the Ministry of Mines of the ruling junta where jade mining activities are undertaken with modern sophisticated machines. The jade sales account for the country’s third largest foreign revenue, annually.