The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have claimed that the Burmese Army are sending new units into Kachin State’s Bhamo district while small clashes continue to occur throughout the region, said the KIA’s joint-secretary La Nan.
“The Burmese Army are increasing movements in the region with more troops being shipped from the lower-Burma region. Our soldiers at the frontline couldn’t identify which army units they were from but apparently they have sunflower insignia on their badges. That insignia doesn’t belong to the [Burmese Army] Northern Regional Military Command,” said La Nan.
“They were shipped into the region through the rivers and are becoming increasingly active in Bhamo District’s Momauk township.”
The sun flower insignia is believed to belong to the Eastern Regional Command based in Southern Shan State. It reportedly contains around 42 infantry battalions. While the Bhamo District is situated in southern Kachin state and is traversed by the main Mandalay-Myitkina highway, NH 31.
La Nan added that a clash took place between the KIA’s troops and a Burmese Army column in Momauk last Sunday;
“The fight took place when a Burmese Army column ran into our troops – they were about 100-200 strong, increased from usual troop number of around 50-60 in the past.”
Fighting between the KIA and the Burmese Army began in June this year after the KIA refused to assimilate into a Border Guard Force unit under the Burmese army. Clashes have been almost daily ever since, forcing thousands to flee their homes.
A local in Myitkyina said Kachin State’s Minister Lajun Ngum Sai in an public assembly on 27 August blamed the KIA for the armed conflict with the Burmese Army in the region;
“He said the KIA burnt down houses and that it was inappropriate – he seemed to want to imply that the KIA is not willing to negotiate despite the government giving them chances and favours to do so,” said the Myitkyina resident.
La Nan said the 20 houses burnt down mentioned by the minister were actually barracks in a Burmese Army camp and that the KIA were examining the relevant details.
In a press conference in Naypyidaw on 12 August, government spokesperson Kyaw Hsan blamed the KIA for breaking ceasefire agreements.
In response to this, the KIA accused the government of not holding a wish to solve political problems via political means.
The KIA and the Burmese had a cease fire in existence since 1994, which came to an end in June. The cease fire was smoothed over by the KIO ceding control of the lucrative jade mines in towns like Hpakant; reputedly home to the finest jade on earth.