LAIZA, Burma --- Burma's armed forces significantly increased a 9 month long offensive against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) this week, as the international community shifts its attention towards Burma's upcoming April 1 by-elections, in which Aung San Suu Kyi is participating.
Battles between army columns and Kachin forces have occurred on a daily basis throughout Kachin and northern Shan states since the latest round of talks held March 8th to 10th failed to reach a peace agreement.
Fighting was particularly fierce over the past few days on the Myitkyina-Bhamo (Manmaw) road in Kachin state between N’pawn and Gangdau Yang where Burmese forces are attempting to resupply their frontline posts.
Fighting has also been very heavy near Pajau on Laisin mountain, the former headquarters of the KIO, according to a Kachin officer on the frontlines. Kachin forces at Pajau which is about three hours north of the KIO's current headquarters at Laiza, have so far resisted the Burmese army's attempts to take the stronghold, according to the KIO officer who spoke on condition of anonymity. The surrounding area like much of the frontline in this conflict is full of land mines.
According to a KIO official in Laiza, fighting so far this week state saw more than a dozen government soldiers killed, it is believed that several officers were among the dead. The KIO also lost a number of soldiers including three officers, he said.
In central Kachin state, skirmishes have also occurred on a near daily basis in Sadan Pa and Sinbo. The fighting in this area began about two weeks ago, according to local residents.
Human Rights Watch condemns Burmese army abuses against Kachin civilians
Human Rights Watch released a detailed report earlier on Tuesday that accused the Burmese army of committing serious human rights abuses throughout its offensive in Kachin and Shan states.
The report titled “UNTOLD MISERIES” alleges that the Burmese army has over the past 9 months committed numerous acts of war crimes by targeting the civilian population for retribution and extrajudicial killing.
The respected New York based group noted that the army continues to commit serious abuses including rape and torture while at the same time the central government has released political prisoners and made other reforms.