100-strong army convoy in Kachin

Around 100 Burmese army trucks have been spotted close to the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) as tension mounts over its refusal to transform into a border militia.

The convoy was seen close to the Laiza Bhamo-to-Myitkyina highway, apparently bound for the Kachin state capital, Myitkyina, a local resident reported. The KIA headquarters are located in nearby Laiza, which sits close to Burma’s northern border with China.

“The trucks looked like logging trucks and there were artillery guns on each one of them,” he said. “There were roofs on the trucks to cover up what’s inside but since the guns were very big, some parts of them were visible.”

Fears are growing that Kachin state will erupt in violence if the KIA, one of Burma’s principal ceasefire groups, continues to reject proposals to transform into a Border Guard Force (BGF).

Last month it emerged that the Burmese army was giving systematic militia training to civilians in Kachin state as a likely preparatory move towards boosting its presence there. The majority of Kachin state is under KIA control, and the training allegedly targeted ethnic Burman civilians, and not Kachin.

Troop deployments were also seen in a town around 20 kilometers from Laiza, while roadblocks were put in place to cut off supply routes feeding the KIA. The same tactic was yesterday reported to have been used in Burma’s northeastern Wa state to block food reaching the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which is also resisting the transformation.

The deadline for ceasefire groups to transform into Border Guard Forces is 28 April, after which they are likely to be declared illegal organisations by the Burmese junta.

But the majority of Burma’s 18 ceasefire groups have so far resisted the change, which would see them subordinated to the Burmese army and forced to reduce troop numbers.

Any fighting in the north of Burma could draw the ire of China, a strategically key ally for the junta but one that has warned against unrest along the shared border. Heavy fighting between Burmese troops and an ethnic Kokang army last June forced some 37,000 refugees into China, and drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing.

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