Food rations being delivered to Burmese troops stationed in Bhamo were reportedly blocked by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) as rising tensions in the northern state show no sign of abating.
The battalion due to receive the rations had allegedly been deployed in territory belonging to the KIA, one of Burma’s biggest ethnic armies. The Burmese army has beefed up its presence in the unstable region with additional deployments of troops and tanks close to the group’s headquarters in Laiza.
The recent incident is the latest in ongoing encounters between the two forces: reports from the region claim that troops led by Major Myint Naing Oo carrying supplies to a military base were stopped by the KIA. Burmese soldiers were then ordered to block the road between Mong Hkawng and Mansi in Bhamo district for three days between 23 and 25 February.
Sporadic bursts of fighting have broken out in Kachin state since late last year, following the KIA’s rebuttal of junta demands to become a Border Guard Force (BGF). On 6 February gunfire was exchanged after a Burmese battalion entered KIA territory under the pretext of seeking and destroying illicit narcotics.
The KIA has been undertaken a drug eradication programme in areas belonging to another Kachin army, the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), which is loyal to the junta. Burmese officials reportedly warned the group against destroying poppy fields.
And in January a new military command zone was designated for Tanaing, a region controlled by the KIA, adding to Burmese army presence there.