Myanmar Army Launches Deadly Incursion Into Kachin Rebel Territory

Burma Army Launches Deadly Incursion Into Kachin Rebel Territory

Kachin, Myanmar, ethnic conflict, Burma Army, military, Union Day

KIA Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Gun Maw talks to The Irrawaddy reporters in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on Thursday. (Photo: Nyein Nyein / The Irrawaddy)

CHIANG MAI — On Wednesday, as President Thein Sein released a Union Day speech that invoked a federal union as a path to peace in Burma, government troops held an operation that killed several Kachin troops and seized an outpost near rebel headquarters in northern Burma, a Kachin leader said.

Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Gun Maw told The Irrawaddy during an interview in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that Burma Army soldiers overran a rebel platoon stationed in northern Bhamo Township about an hour’s drive from Laiza, a town on the Burma-China border where the KIA is headquartered.

“A KIA outpost was seized,” he said. “We lost two to three soldiers, but I don’t know the exact number of causalities yet.”

“Our frontline bases are being attacked under the pretext of a crackdown on illegal log traders,” Gun Maw said, adding that gun battles had continued until Wednesday evening.

Fighting began in the village of Ja Ing Yang on Monday and spread through the area near Laiza, a region that had enjoyed a year-long period of calm, Gun Maw said.

The KIA and Burma Army have been engaged in at times heavy fighting in Kachin State since June 2011, when a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down. In late 2012, fighting escalated and government fighter jets bombarded the lightly-armed guerrillas and ground troops surrounded their stronghold.

The government declared a unilateral ceasefire in mid-January 2013, but fighting continued around Laiza for another month, and subsequent rounds of ceasefire talks failed to produce results.

In recent months, the Burma Army carried out operations in KIA territory in Mansi Township, southern Kachin State, ostensibly to target illegal loggers. The operations led to skirmishes with the KIA, while thousands of Kachin villagers were forced to flee the area.

On Thursday, an article in Burmese-language state media mentioned the latest fighting between the Burma Army and “an armed group” in Kachin State, without naming the KIA. The article said government soldiers had tried to stop a convoy of trucks carrying illegal timber near Ja Ing Yang village in Bhamo Township when members of an armed group tried to interfere in order to protect the timber traders.

A gun battle ensued in which one soldier was injured, the report said, adding that 44 trucks carrying 1,500 tons of illegally logged timber were seized while they were on their way to the China border.

Gun Maw said the Burma Army operation against the logging trucks had been carried out in KIA-controlled area and amounted to an incursion into rebel-held territory, adding that the army could have stopped the logging trucks before they reached the KIA area.

“Illegal logging occurs mostly within Sagaing Division, where loggers cut those valuable trees inside forest reserves. The problem could be solved if they [the government] stop them from logging in these reserves instead of cracking down at the border paths,” he said. “The [military] engagements occur as they catch them on the way of transport near border.”

Illegal timber trade in Burma has seen huge amounts of high-grade timber disappear over the border into China, where the luxury wood is highly prized. The timber, with an estimated value of US$252 million in 2012, is transported through Kachin State and both the Burma Army and rebels are said to tax the trade in order to support their troops.

“The illegal logging issue is complicated,” Gun Maw said. “There are people who benefit from this trade on both sides, in KIA and the government, they are taking bribes. We have to find a way to solve this issue, instead of blaming each other.”

Gun Maw said the clashes endangered the planned nationwide ceasefire talks between Minister Aung Min’s peace negotiation team and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT), which represents 16 of Burma biggest armed ethnic groups.

“It is unacceptable that government troops attack the KIA, while they are talking about a nationwide ceasefire with the NCCT,” he said. “We are preparing to inform about these incidents to the Myanmar Peace Center, as well as the [peace talks] observers—the United Nations and the China representatives.”

The ethnic rebels groups are scheduled to hold ceasefire talks with the government in the Karen State capital Hpa-an next month.

President Thein Sein’s government is eager to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the groups in order to show the international community that is making progress in resolving Burma’s decades-old ethnic conflicts.


3 Responses to Burma Army Launches Deadly Incursion Into Kachin Rebel Territory

  1. Min Aung Hlaing and Than Shwe still own the military. So, Thein Sein is just a puppet president. Whatever he talks is just lip’s service. In the Union, Kachin State’s affairs must be handled by the residents of Kachin State. Now, Myanmar soldiers are wandering around and killing around like wild dogs. Peace in the Union is still far. I believe UNFC will do something for their own member, KIO.

  2. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “Illegal timber trade in Burma has seen huge amounts of high-grade timber disappear over the border into China, where the luxury wood is highly prized. The timber, with an estimated value of US$252 million in 2012, is transported through Kachin State and both the Burma Army and rebels are said to tax the trade in order to support their troops”.
    So, BOTH the BURMA ARMY and the KIA ARE NO BETTER THAN LOOTERS – US$252 million in 2012 – to FUND their TROOPS only.
    “The illegal logging issue is complicated,” Gun Maw said. “There are people who benefit from this trade on both sides, in KIA and the government, they are taking bribes. We have to find a way to solve this issue, instead of blaming each other.”
    Gun Maw has ADMITTED the FACT thus as well.
    The BURMA ARMY launching deadly incursions in KIA territory is simply a case of CONFLICT of INTERESTS – looters/robbers fighting over the spoils only.
    KIA and the BURMA ARMY have been SPLITTING the SPOILS for HOW LONG, ONLY GOD KNOWS of course.
    And the Kachin people are OBLIGED to RUN or LOSE THEIR LIVES in the process, in this UNHOLY DEAL no less man.
    This AIN’T RIGHT nor JUST for the record as well man!
    The BURMA ARMY is INVADING the KIA held territory to PROTECT the CHINESE PROJECTS/INTERESTS primarily and in the first place as known worldwide as well.
    “Illegal logging occurs mostly within Sagaing Division, where loggers cut those valuable trees inside forest reserves. The problem could be solved if they [the government] stop them from logging in these reserves instead of cracking down at the border paths,” he said. “The [military] engagements occur as they catch them on the way of transport near border.”
    So Min Aung Hlaing’s HORDES are MAKING MONEY OUT OF SMUGGLING TIMBER, while MONKEYS OUT of the KIA as well I see!
    Of course the PROCEEDS/KICK BACKS (in US DOLLARS no less) END UP in Min Aung Hlaing’s POCKETS, don’t argue man.
    And Myint Soe (Area Commander) as well would be a BENEFICIARY in THIS DEAL no less as well, any bets?
    The BURMA ARMY ALLOWED the TIMBER OUT OF THE FOREST RESERVES (after receiving the bribes amounting to Millions of US Dollars of course) in the first place and primarily as well.
    No doubt Min Aung Hlaing’s troops are OBLIGED to AFFECT a SAFE PASSAGE for the ILLEGAL TIMBER to PASS THROUGH KIA held TERRITORY and END UP in China as well man.
    Then the KIA CUTS IN TO THE DEAL – demand money – when the ILLEGAL TIMBER CROSSES their territory of course.
    That TRIGGERED the FIGHT, with LOSSES on the KIA side as the BURMA ARMY is BETTER ARMED and EQUIPPED than the KIA no doubt.
    “A KIA outpost was seized,” he said. “We lost two to three soldiers, but I don’t know the exact number of causalities yet.”
    “Our frontline bases are being attacked under the pretext of a crackdown on illegal log traders,” Gun Maw said, adding that gun battles had continued until Wednesday evening.
    And the BURMA ARMY seized the opportune moment and ATTACKED other KIA OUTPOSTS and INVADED the KIA territory under the same pretext – protect illegal timber trade for the Chinese communists next door – while thousands of Kachin villagers were forced to RUN for THEIR LIVES of course.
    “It is unacceptable that government troops attack the KIA, while they are talking about a nationwide ceasefire with the NCCT,” he said. “We are preparing to inform about these incidents to the Myanmar Peace Center, as well as the [peace talks] observers—the United Nations and the China representatives.”
    The ethnic rebels groups are scheduled to hold ceasefire talks with the government in the Karen State capital Hpa-an next month.
    How could they – Burma Army and KIA led UNFC – hold CEASEFIRE TALKS while doing their best to KILL EACH OTHER man!
    Next time Myint Soe and Gun Maw meet in Hpa -an for peace talks, they would be STABBING EACH OTHER in place of BOTTOMS UP (drinking) like they DID last time, any bets?
    WHAT A JOKE man!

  3. Allow me to correct a factual error of the following:
    The author writes: “The government declared a unilateral ceasefire in mid-February 2013 and fighting around Laiza quieted down, but subsequent rounds of ceasefire talks failed to produce results.”
    The fact: The government declared a unilateral ceasefire on 18 January 2013 (at 8:00 news), one day before the International Donor Conference in Naypyidaw that took place between 19-20 January. The fighting at Lajayang village was ceased but fighting continued as where until 26 January 2013. When China summoned both conflicting parties to meet at Ruili on 4 February, the fighting along Myitkyina-Bhamo road was already ceased.

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