13 June 2011

KIA 'Loses Patience' with Burmese Govt

THE Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said it has lost all patience with the Burmese government and is ready to resist any troop incursions into its territory.

Months of tension between the KIA and government troops finally snapped at the weekend when armed clashes broke out in Momauk Township in Kachin State, causing some 500 residents to flee their homes to the Chinese border.

“The fighting is ongoing on and is set to spread," said KIA spokesman La Na. "We have finally lost patience [with the Burmese army]. It's now a 'zero tolerance' policy."

The KIA signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1994. But tension mounted last year after the KIA refused to transform its battalions into a state militia under Burmese army command.

Clashes erupted on Thursday after negotiations broke down over a hostage situation. Fighting escalated further after government troops returned the dead body of the hostage, a captured KIA soldier, to the Kachin army.

Government forces have reinforced their positions in Momauk, bringing in several additional battalions. Sources said the government is preparing for a major military operation.

KIA sources claimed about 60 government soldiers were injured in clashes over the weekend, and were hospitalized in Bhamo.

Seng Aung, a resident in Laiza, the headquarters of the KIA, said he believed the fighting would escalate and that Chinese construction workers and engineers at Tapai dam near the Sino-Burmese border have returned home to escape the hostilities.

He said that prisoners from Bhamo were sent to Momauk to serve as porters for government troops.

Government forces took over a KIA liaison office in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, on Saturday night.

Lapai Naw Din, the editor of the Thailand-based Kachin News Group, said that government authorities warned local residents in Momauk not to go out at nighttime.

Some residents have moved to safer towns while others have gone to stay with their relatives in China, said Lapai Naw Din. Many Momauk residents fled after government troops began forcefully recruiting locals to serve as porters, carrying munitions and supplies toward the theaters of battle.

During last week's clashes, at least three government soldiers were killed, including a captain, and six were injured, while two KIA soldiers were wounded, according to Kachin sources.

No further details of casualties have been released since. -- The Irrawaddy

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