Military steps up strikes against Kachin stronghold

Military steps up strikes against Kachin stronghold

The Burmese military continues to intensify its frontline offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) by coordinating ground and air strikes against rebel territories near their stronghold in Laiza.

KIA spokesperson La Nan told DVB yesterday the Burmese army and air force have been launching coordinated attacks against the KIA’s 5th Brigade, about 7 miles west of their headquarters in Laiza.

“The army and the air force are executing a joint operation firing artilleries, missiles and 30mm [cannon]. There is intense fighting taking place in Hkarabon since [Jan 16],” said La Nan.

On 13 January, Burmese government forces burnt down Khaya and Aungtha villages, outside of Laiza. The KIA claims 60 abandoned houses, whose residents had already fled last year, were destroyed in the attack.

Meanwhile, skirmishes reportedly erupted near the jade fields in western Kachin state’s Hpakant township on Tuesday and Wednesday prompting hundreds of residents from nearby villages to flee to Lawng Hkang town for their safety.

“There was a helicopter flying overhead just about three minutes ago. It was circling for about 10 minutes before leaving. There have been hundreds of refugees from Kansee area fleeing to Lawng Hkang – they said they fled [their] homes in fear as government forces have arrived as close as about four miles from Kansee and small arm and artillery gun fire was heard,” said local National League for Democracy party chairman Tin Soe yesterday.

According to the chairman, more than 1,000 refugees have taken shelter in refugee camps, a monastery, communal hall and church in Lawng Hkang since 13 January.

According to sources on the ground, the Burmese military has deployed nearly 130 battalions, or 20 percent of the country’s armed forces, to the restive region.

On Monday, three civilians were killed and another six injured after Burmese troops launched a series of artillery attacks on Laiza.

The KIA is the only remaining ethnic militia that has yet to sign a ceasefire deal with President Thein Sein’s government. Over 75,000 civilians have been displaced since a 17-year truce collapsed in June 2011. The Burmese army claims to be acting in self-defence.

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