Government troops and a rebel militia began fighting in the Tanaing gold and amber mining region of northern Myanmar’s Kachin state on Friday, following the military’s order for workers and residents of the resource-rich area to evacuate it by mid-month, residents said.
Myanmar soldiers and fighters from the Kachin Independence Army begin fighting around 8 a.m. about nine miles from Tanaing township, they said.
Hostilities began in the township’s Ja Htu Zup village, and KIA soldiers also launched an offensive at Kaung Ra village near Tanaing town, the online news service Democratic Voice of Burma reported, citing an unidentified source from the KIA.
Migrant workers from elsewhere in Myanmar and others who live in the mining region told RFA’s Myanmar Service that they heard the sounds of heavy weapons being fired and cannot leave the area because the roads are closed.
So far no casualties have been reported.
Thousands of people have moved out of the area since June 6, a day after the Myanmar military dropped fliers warning them to evacuate by mid-June before beginning a clearance operation of the area.
They are staying temporarily in Christian churches and Buddhist monasteries in Kachin state or have returned to their hometowns in other parts of Myanmar.
The fliers warned that if residents failed to leave the area by June 15, the military would consider them to have connections to the KIA, sources told RFA’s Myanmar Service on June 7.
Some people, however, have remained behind in nearby villages, workers and locals said.
The KIA controls the areas where the mines are and depends on amber and gold mining activities as a source of income.
A woman and her two daughters were injured on June 4 when four artillery shells fell on their home in Kawng Ra village, a day after fighting first began in Tanaing.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.