New Clash Between Ethnic Militia And Myanmar Troops Begins in Kachin State

Shells fall in villages in the Indawgyi region, forcing residents to flee.

Kachin Independence Army (KIA) soldiers take a cigarette break as they move towards the frontline of fighting with the government army near Laiza in northern Myanmar's Kachin state, Oct. 14, 2016.

An armed ethnic group clashed with government troops on Wednesday morning in the Indawgyi region of northern Myanmar’s Kachin state in the latest bout of hostilities between the two adversaries, local residents said.

Government troops from Division 101 and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops from Battalion 6 battled each other for nearly an hour about two miles east of Aing-lay-tu village in Mohnyin township, they said.

It is not known if there were any casualties, villagers said.

Some of the roughly 80 ethnic Shan families who live in the area and farm for a living said shells from the battle fell near their farm huts.

“We were working in the fields when we heard the gunfire,” said one villager who declined to give his name. “And then shells fell in our area, and we all fled to avoid being killed. We don’t know when we can return.”

In June, fighting between government soldiers and the KIA forced thousands of people to flee the seven wards that comprise the Tanaing gold and amber mining region in Kachin state’s Tanaing township.

The Myanmar government is trying to end decades of ethnic separatist civil wars and forge peace in the country through a series of peace negotiations started last August by de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The KIA was invited as an observer rather than a participant to the second and most recent peace conference in May, because the group, along with seven other militias, has not signed the government's nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA).

The KIA was one of four ethnic armed groups belonging to an umbrella organization for militias which have not signed the NCA that recently split from the body over a disagreement about the pact.

Fighting in northern Shan state

Meanwhile, more than 300 villagers who live in Namtu township in northern Shan state fled to central Namtu town on Wednesday as fighting flared between two rival ethnic militias—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Shan State Army-South (SSA-S)—an official from a local youth organization said.

The fighting occurred in the morning, and the residents left their villages in the evening, said Lway Kee Daung, joint secretary of the Ta’ang Students and Youth Committee.

The 300 people from six villages have sought shelter inside Pobbayon Monastery in Namtu, she said.

Intermittent clashes between the TNLA and SSA-S, the military wing of the Restoration Council of Shan State, first broke out in November 2015, weeks after the SSA-S joined seven other ethnic militias in signing the NCA.

The two groups have blamed the hostilities on accusations of territorial encroachment by each side.

Fighting between the two ethnic militias and between the TNLA and the government army in northern Shan state has caused thousands of residents to leave their villages and flee to safety.

Reported by Kyaw Myo Min and Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.