Burma’s government forces are holding 10 local villagers captive and are continuing their attacks in and around the village of Nam Lim Pa in southern Kachin State’s Mansi Township, according to a report on Sunday by relief group Free Burma Rangers (FBR).
The report said that Burmese army battalions 276, 601 and other troops from the Northern Command have maintained assaults on villages south of Bhamo which are defended by the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
The assault reportedly began on the morning of 30 January when Burmese troops invaded the village of Nam Gau where they took captive 20 villagers and 24 trucks carrying about 100 tons of wood.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told DVB last week that the operation in Nam Lim Pa was “to arrest illegal logging in that area, and some KIO troops are preventing this operation because they are involved in illegal trade.”
However, the FBR report on 9 February said that the Burmese army continues to hold 10 villagers captive as well as the 24 trucks.
FBR summarised that the Burmese government forces were staging continued attacks in the area “ … for three main reasons: to subjugate the population, and to prevent them from supporting the KIA and the Kachin government (Kachin Independence Organisation); to drive out the KIA/KIO, consolidate their control over this part of Kachin State, and cut the Kachin off from Shan and Ta’ang allies in northern Shan State; and to have total control over resources in this area, as well as logging routes that cross through this area.”
The report said that in November and December, some 2,000 villagers were forced to flee their homes as fighting intensified.
Ye Htut was unavailable for comment on Monday.
FBR, which has backed mobile medical teams in eastern Burma since 1997, also reported that, on 26 January, three Burmese soldiers apprehended seven ethnic Karen villagers in the Dooplaya District of Karen State.
The Karen farmers were reportedly en route by foot to Thailand to sell their 19 cattle when the Burmese troops intercepted them and forced them to return to their village.
“The commander for the Law Naw Burma Army Camp, U Thaung Htut, then approached the villagers and demanded that they give him 1,700,000 kyat [over US$1,700],” the report said. “The villagers did not have that amount of money, so the Burma Army took three of their cows.”