Myanmar’s military will cut off the delivery of rice and gasoline to parts of Kachin state’s turbulent Tanaing township controlled by an ethnic armed group if they find that local businessmen operating "illegal" mines are receiving the supplies, a Kachin state government official said Monday.
Tensions between government soldiers and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) flared on Nov. 27-28 in the township’s gold and amber mining region, forcing residents still living in local villages to flee to safety.
The KIA’s territory includes the mining region on whose natural resources it depends as a source of income through the levying a five-percent tax on mine operators.
The Myanmar military has said that it will block shipments of rice and gas to KIA-controlled areas of the township if it determines that the supplies are going to those who operate "illegal" mining businesses and not to residents, said Colonel Myo Tin, security and border affairs minister of Kachin state, in response to a question posed by Zaw Win, a lawmaker in the Kachin state parliament, who represents Tanaing township.
“Businessmen are doing illegal gold and amber mining in this area, and they are likely supporting the KIA,” he said during a meeting of the state parliament in Kachin’s capital Myitkyina.
Myo Tin said suppliers can sell rice and gas only to residents and that the Northern Military Headquarters informed the state government that it will monitor the flow of goods into the area to prevent them from being sold in KIA-controlled areas.
As of now, more than 30,000 residents of Tanaing have enough rice from local farms, he said.
The Myanmar military allows sellers to bring in the 7,000 bags of rice and 2,300 drums of gas per month required by migrant workers who live in the township, he said.
Though the government military says there are enough supplies, township residents are having difficulty buying rice and gas because prices are very high, Zaw Win said.
The latest clashes between the Myanmar army and KIA broke out last week during a government army offensive in an area where KIA Battalion 14 is stationed, according to KIA information officer Lieutenant Colonel Naw Bu.
Nearly all villagers had left the area six months earlier after they received advance notice about a clearance operation by the Myanmar military, he said. Those who remained behind to safeguard the villages have been fleeing to other locales since Nov. 7 out of fear of more fighting.
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.
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.
Reported by Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.