MONGKOE, Burma — Late Thursday evening, members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) captured and then destroyed a strategic government checkpoint in northern Shan state at Pangsai (Kyukok), eyewitnesses report.
The gate located near Pangsai (Kyukok) on the road towards Mongkoe (also spelled Monggu) and Hpawng Seng, played a major role in the Burma army’s efforts to restrict and monitor the movements of people in the area.
Following the KIA’s capture of the strategic site the small structure was set on fire and burned to the ground. During the takeover, a group of three army soldiers and two police officers stationed at the gate were first disarmed and detained by Kachin forces. According to witnesses the five men were later released as a gesture of goodwill from the KIA.
The raid on the checkpoint was carried out by troops from the KIA’s Brigade 4 and members of the civilian volunteer force known as the People’s Army, according to a KIA officer who confirmed that the incident took place.
While Mongkoe township is the traditional territory of the KIA, the Burma army currently control most towns in the area while the KIA controls the countryside, according to local residents.
Last Sunday April 1, the same day as the national by-elections, four government soldiers died and several others were seriously injured following heavy fighting between Kachin forces and the Burma army in the Pangsai area.
North western Shan state has since December of last year state witnessed heavy fighting between the Burma army and the KIA. Clashes have been particularly severe along a stretch of territory between Namtu and the Chinese border along the route of a massive twin oil and gas pipeline project currently under construction. When completed the Shwe gas pipelines will send fuel from Burma’s Arakan coast to China through a long stretch of what is currently KIA territory.
Government forces mount offensive on KIO’s Laiza stronghold
While fighting continues in Shan state, heavy fighting is also taking place in Kachin state near the Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) de facto capital, Laiza. According to sources the Burma army is in the process of sending hundreds of fresh reinforcements to the area.
The troop buildup near Laiza comes despite the fact that President Thein Sein has twice over the past five months publicly called on the army to halt the Kachin offensive.