Amidst an ongoing clash between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army, DVB spoke to KIA representative La Nan.
Question: There have been reports of fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and government forces in Kachin State’s Mohnyin Township. Can you give us the latest update?
Answer: The fighting started on 14 November in an area under control by the KIA 8th Brigade to east of the town of Mohnyin. In the following day, they set up artillery positions about 10km away from us and began shelling. On 16 November around 5pm, their air support arrived and started bombing our positions. The situation is calm so far today [17 November].
Q: How did the fighting start? What caused it?
A: It was provoked by the government forces capturing our frontline outposts. The KIA are in a defensive posture – we’ve lost quite a few of our bases as they were pounding us with both artillery and air strikes. The government is waging an offensive against us.
Q: Why do you think the government is waging an offensive against the KIA at this time?
A: There might be various intentions but according to locals in Mohnyin, the government was expecting their Union Solidarity and Development Party to win the recent polls but in the end the National League for Democracy won and the army probably feels a need to show the town’s population what they are capable of, as a warning, by starting a fight with the KIA just about 4.6km east of the town.
Q: Can you estimate the number of government forces? Which KIA units are in the fight?
A: Right now the KIA 8th and 35th brigade’s and 26th Battalion are in the area of fighting. The government assault is spearheaded by the Burmese army’s 15th Battalion with heavy reinforcements. They mobilised from Bhamo and Mawhan two weeks ago, along with several artillery and air units presumably from military units based in Sagaing and Mandalay divisions. and
Q: What are the casualties like on both sides?
A: For now, we haven’t any solid information but we are expecting some casualties since they are attacking us with planes. We assume casualties on both sides.
Q: Is there fighting in areas other than Mohnyin Township?
A: There is. A few days ago, we had some engagement in our 4th Brigade’s area although the fighting wasn’t as heavy. I think we can say the battle around Mohnyin has been the fiercest in the history of fighting between the Burmese army and KIA.
Q: How do you think this fighting will affect the peace process and the continuing nationwide ceasefire talks?
A: At this moment, we no longer have direct communication channel with the Burmese government the term ‘Nationwide Ceasefire’ is rather questionable to us now. How we discuss further about internal peace depends on the new government’s peace making policy but we can say the chapter on the so-called ‘nationwide ceasefire’ discussion has come to cease.
Q: How much hope does the KIA hold toward the incoming government?
A: We have no party bias. We will communicate with the new government according to how the people feel about them. We are hopeful that the new government coming to power with genuine support from the people will lead the internal peace process on to the right track.