Next bullet ‘a declaration of war’, says KIA

The Kachin Independence Army has put its troops on high alert as Burmese government plans to build a road close to its territory threaten to spark fighting.

The KIA yesterday issued the alert to its battalions after Chief of Staff General Gam Shwang sent a letter to the Burmese army’s Northern Regional Military Command (NRMC). Military analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw, who is based on the China-Burma border, said it was the highest alert the KIA has released.

“The group’s leaders sat in a meeting on 14 May and sent a warning to the NRMC that one gunshot and it will be regarded as a declaration of war against the KIA,” he said.

Yesterday afternoon a number of artillery shells landed in valleys close to the KIA’s Brigade 5 outpost. Aung Kyaw Zaw said “it was obviously meant to be a threat”. The government is yet to comment on the situation.

Nawdin Lahpai, editor of the Kachin News Group, said that tension had been on the rise since Saturday last week when the KIA’s repeated attempts to stop the road construction were ignored by the government.

Naypyidaw has already told the KIA’s Brigade 4 to leave their base in northern Shan state’s Loikang where thousands of ethnic Kachin live, but they refused. The Kachin News Group say the Burmese army has recently deployed additional troops to Mansi township in southern Kachin state.

It added that the planned road construction was a disguise for the reinforcement of Burmese army positions close to areas controlled by the KIA, whose 17-year ceasefire deal with the regime appears close to collapse.

Estimates of the number of KIA troops, whose patchwork territory stretches across Kachin to northern Shan state, vary between 4,000 and 10,000.

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