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Burmese troops close in on Laiza

A column of Burmese soldiers have reportedly reached a village close to the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in a sign that the group’s grip on its territory in northern Burma may be weakening.

Locals in Nalon have fled four miles to the town of Laiza, the home of the KIA, after hundreds of soldiers yesterday flooded the village. A resident of Nalon said that troops had tried to sow disquiet among the population of the village, which is made up of ethnic Shan and Kachin.

“A Burmese army column from Talawgyi, estimated to be about 50 to 100-strong, has arrived in Nalon and they are inciting division among the ethnics,” he said. “They were telling the Shan not to trust the Kachin as they were providing information [to the KIA] via mobile phones and warned them to inform the army when they see someone using a phone.”

Concerns have also mounted that additional troops were being deployed to an outpost at Lajaryang, and that an attack on Laiza is drawing close.

Another Burmese column travelling from the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina has reached Dabatyang village, around 30 miles from Laiza. The KIA has troops stationed in a village around two miles from Dabatyang, and locals there fear fighting may be imminent.

Intense clashes have erupted across areas of Kachin state over the past two months, forcing thousands of refugees to Laiza and into China. Refusals from a multitude of armed ethnic groups to become government-controlled Border Guard Forces have engulfed parts of Burma’s northern and eastern border regions in violence.

Colonel Zau Raw, commander of the KIA’s Shan state-based Battalion 4, told The Irrawaddy Magazine yesterday that the Burmese army would launch an assault on Laiza before the end of the week.

The KIA last week captured five Burmese army personnel, including two officers, following an exchange of fire between the two sides on the highway connecting Myitkyina to Bhamo, where the Kachin army has a strong presence.

The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) issued a statement on 19 July saying that 16,000 refugees sheltering in makeshift camps along the China-Burma border are “urgently in need of aid”.

“A humanitarian crisis is looming in Kachin State,” said KWAT spokesperson Shirley Seng. “We need concerted international pressure, particularly from China, to force the regime to implement a nationwide ceasefire before it is too late.”

The same group has documented the rape of 32 women and girls by Burmese troops since fighting began on 9 June.


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