Fighting between an ethnic armed group and Myanmar government troops has escalated again in Tanaing township in Kachin State, forcing the few residents still living in the area to find safe havens elsewhere, a military official from the rebel army said on Friday.
Lieutenant Colonel Naw Bu, information officer of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), blamed the current round of clashes in the township of Myitkyina district on Nov. 27-28 on an ongoing offensive by government army troops.
“Even though there are no clashes at present, the tension is still high because of a continuing offensive by government troops,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Though the clashes broke out in an area where KIA Battalion 14 is stationed, almost all villagers had left six months earlier after they received advance notice about a clearance operation by the government army, Naw Bu said.
Those who remained behind to safeguard the villages have been fleeing to other locales since Nov. 7 out of fear of more fighting, he said.
The KIA, which controls large swathes of northeastern Kachin state, has regularly engaged in hostilities with the Myanmar army since a cease-fire agreement collapsed in 2011. Its territory includes Tanaing township’s gold and amber mining region on whose natural resources it depends as a source of income through the levying a five-percent tax on mine operators.
Thousands of people moved out of the seven wards that comprise the mining region in Tanaing township after June 5 when the Myanmar army dropped fliers warning them to evacuate by mid-month before the start of a military clearance operation. The fliers said that if residents failed to leave the area by the cut-off date, the military would consider them to have connections to the KIA.
Those who fled sought shelter in Christian churches and Buddhist monasteries or returned to their hometowns in other parts of the country.
A month later, government troops clashed again with KIA soldiers in the state’s Indawgyi region.
The KIA is one of several militias with which 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 launched in August 2016 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 six other militias, has not signed the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA).
The militia was one of four ethnic armies belonging to an umbrella organization for rebel groups which have not signed the NCA that split from the body over a disagreement about the pact earlier this year.
It then joined six other ethnic militias to form the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), which has called for a political dialogue with the government for peace talks as a coalition rather than as individual members.
Reported by Wai Yan Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Kyaw Aung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.