Kachin Soldiers and Myanmar Government Troops Engage in New Clash

2015-06-16
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Kachin Independence Army soldiers pray before taking their positions at a camp in Kachin state, Sept. 19, 2012.
AFP

A fresh clash broke out between an armed ethnic Kachin group and government soldiers in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state, as a ceasefire was shattered in neighboring Shan state, according to the military and rebels.

Fighting with heavy weapons started around 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. Monday in Pharkant in Kachin, said Major Tant San of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“There were three big fights yesterday, and a fight started at around 5 a.m. today [Tuesday],” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “They are from government infantry units 423 and 424.”

When RFA contacted the military office in Pharkant for further details, an official said he could not confirm the fighting, citing security reasons.

The clashes between the KIA and government army have forced more than 1,000 people in the region into camps.

A previous bout of fighting erupted in Kachin state on May 6, when KIA soldiers used landmines against government troops, and the army attacked people involved in the local black market logging trade.

In response, the Myanmar government deployed two fighter jets to attack the KIA, the same day as President Thein Sein was meeting with leaders from other armed groups involved in negotiating a national cease-fire.

Kokang cease-fire shattered

In another armed ethnic group conflict in Myanmar, fighting resumed between Kokang insurgents and government troops in Shan state after the group had declared a unilateral cease-fire last week in an attempt to end four months of hostilities along the Chinese border.

Although the Kokang hoped the cease-fire also would foster stability in the region and prevent disruptions to general elections scheduled for later this year, clashes began again when government troops continued their attack, said Tun Myat Linn, spokesman for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Kokang army.

“Big fighting with heavy weapons began on June 12 and 13,” he told RFA. “One soldier from the MNDAA was killed, and 10 from government army were killed.”

Although the Kokang army vowed not to launch offenses against the army after it declared the cease-fire, it would, however, fight back to protect itself if attacked, he added.

Tun Myat Linn estimated that a total of about 70 Kokang soldiers and more than 1,000 government troops had been killed in the conflict so far. Myanmar has not released recent casualty figures.

Chinese not involved

He also said the MNDAA, an ethnic Chinese army, had no contact with Chinese officials in making the decision to declare the cease-fire, but ordered its troops not to cross the border into China, because Beijing said it would not accept any organization that created instability in its territory.

Fighting had spilled over into China in March when Myanmar’s air force dropped bombs killing several farmers and prompting China to put pressure on the country to end the clashes.

Speculation arose in Myanmar last week that the subsequent cease-fire was in part motivated by the Chinese government which was hosting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on a visit.

But Ye Htut, the president’s spokesman, said China invited Aung San Suu Kyi because relations between the two countries were improving, not because the Chinese wanted to talk to her about the conflict between the Kokang and Myanmar government.

He also told RFA that he could not say whether government troops attacked the Kokang insurgents because leaders had not yet issued a formal statement.

He did, however, add that Peng Jiasheng, the ethnic Chinese leader of the MNDAA who is also known as Phone Kyar Shin, had broken previous promises he made to government leaders.

In 2011, for example, Peng requested amnesty from President Thein Sein when he was wanted by the government, and vowed not to attack the army, Ye Htut said. Although he was granted amnesty, he began fighting again two years later.

“Phone Kyar Shin has started this fighting, and it is his responsibility to stop this fighting,” he said. “The military has to fight anybody anywhere, including the Kokang region, to protect our country.”

Reported by Kyaw Myo Min, Ye Htet, Thinn Thiri, and Kyaw Kyaw Aung. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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