On Wednesday the Burma army continued efforts to capture Laiza, the KIO’s largest town by aggressively shelling positions belonging to the group’s armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
For more than 10 hours government forces heavily shelled the Pan Tsun post, held by KIA battalion 19 in Dawhpumyang in northern Bhamo (Manmaw) district, local witnesses told the Kachin News Group.
Pan Tsun post eventually fell on Wednesday to government forces, according to senior KIA officials at the frontline. The area was of strategic importance to the KIA’s defense of Laiza.
Reached by phone KIO spokesman Lah Nan said that heavy fighting is currently taking place in parts of the KIA’s Brigade 5 that deal with the protection of Laiza. Lah Nan is the General Secretary No.2 for the KIO.
Many observers believe that the army’s push to capture Laiza is part of a wider government strategy to force the KIO to accept tough demands at the next round of negotiations between the two sides.
Twice so far this year talks in China between government representatives and senior KIO officials ended without substantial agreement.
In June of last year a 17-year ceasefire between the two sides was terminated when the Burma army attacked KIA positions. The ten months of fighting that have followed have been some of the heaviest to hit
Burma in years.
LOIJE, Burma — A large section of the heavily traveled Loije to Bhamo (Manmaw) road which connects southern Kachin state to China was effectively closed on Thursday by the Kachin Independence Organization
(KIO), Burma’s second largest armed resistance group.
The KIO’s move to block one of Burma’s most important trade routes with China followed the Burma army’s heavy shelling of KIO positions on Wednesday.
A businessman living in Loije told the Kachin News Group that on Thursday morning a KIO official informed him and other residents of the border town that the Bhamo (Manmaw) to Loije route would be closed until further notice.
The Loije to Bhamo (Manmaw) road is one of four main border trade routes between Burma and its northern neighbor. Since the Kachin conflict began last year the road has suffered repeated closures due to fighting.KIO-controlled parts of the route were briefly closed earlier this year however in early February the group stopped blocking travel on the road after many traders urged that the route be reopened.
Loije (also Lweje, Lwegel) was previously controlled by the KIO until it fell to the Burma army in 1987. The KIO has continued to control territory near Loije in the years since.