As Burmese government troops seized control of another Kachin Independence Army (KIA) outpost on Wednesday, relief workers said that already overcrowded refugee camps near the group’s headquarters are seeing a fresh influx of civilians fleeing from intensified fighting.
The outpost, at the base of the Hpun Pyan Bum hill, about 7 km west of the KIA stronghold of Laiza, is the second KIA position in the area to fall since the Burmese government army stepped up its offensive late last month.
After days of airstrikes and artillery shelling that began in the final week of December, the KIA lost control of its Point 771 outpost near Lajayang on Jan. 3.
The Hpun Pyan Bum outpost, which was under the control of KIA Brigade 5, started coming under heavy artillery fire on Monday, and has also been the target of aerial attacks, according to sources in Laiza.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, La Hseng, chairman of the Northern Command of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), a KIA ally, said that Burmese forces are continuing their advance on Laiza.
“Two columns of government troops are moving forward to launch attacks on bases surrounding Laiza,” said La Hseng.
According to Doi Pi Sa, the chairman of a committee overseeing camps for war-displaced civilians, hundreds of refugees have fled to camps near Laiza since the fighting began to intensify in late December.
Altogether, since a 17-year-old ceasefire between the KIA and the government army broke down in June 2011, more than 100,000 civilians have been forced to flee to areas controlled by both the KIA and the government.
“As the fighting escalates, the refugees desperately need more assistance because they have no way to support themselves,” said Doi Pi Sa. “They are also growing increasingly worried about their safety.”