photo credit nyo ohn myint
As fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and national military in northern Shan State nears the end of its second week, KIA commanders have agreed to let government forces use land between Saga Nam Hkum village and Mong Meik as temporary relief areas.
But according to KIA Battalion 12 commander Major Labang Jawn Awng, the government military’s Shan State outpost in Bhamo Township, the Northern Military Command, is still unsatisfied. “They are asking we designate more relief areas along the route to Mansi Township, but we cannot allow this. This area is a key area for our defense, as it is where we watch for government attacks.”
Fighting between KIA forces and soldiers from the government’s Tactical Operation Command (TOC) 1 in the Saga Nam Hkum area has subsided to a stand-off, but tensions remain high as government officials continue to press the KIA to open their front lines.
“The government claims it is using these areas for relief, but in reality they are treated as liaison spots where the government’s TOC soldiers can reinforce one another with guns, bullets and rations,” said Major Labang Jawn Awng. “They are not withdrawing, and it is as if they are setting up their own battalion in the area. As a response, we are preparing for more attacks.”
The KIA and the government’s TOC groups 1, 2, and 3 began fighting on October 22, when government forces invaded KIA-controlled territory to respond to claims of illegal timber production in the area. The KIA denied these accusations, saying the government created the excuse as a foundation for conducting military operations against KIA forces.
On November 4 and 5, ethnic army groups including the KIA and the 13-party ethnic committee the Nation Wide Cease-Fire Coordination Team (NCCT) will meet with government officials in Myikyina, Kachin State to discuss the government’s national ceasefire ceremony, anticipated for later this month.
Since 2011, more than 150 government battalions have conducted military operations in KIA territory. January of this year marked the first time the national air force, Tatmadaw Lei, began conducting attacks in the region.
To follow PNA English’s ongoing coverage of the conflict in northern Shan State, see the links below: