Hpakant, Burma — Armed clashes between Burma military forces and troops from the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) continued yesterday in Kachin state's famed Hpakant jade district, according to members of the Kachin resistance.
Over the past few days Kachin resistance forces killed dozens of troops while themselves sustaining few fatalities, KIO sources claim. Thousands of refugees are also believed to have fled the area to avoid the increasingly bloody fighting.
According to KIO forces on the ground in the Hpakant area, Burmese army troops have sought to avoid detection by dressing as civilian employees from local mining operations. KIO fighters say that on Monday more than 100 Burmese troops posed as miners from the Mya Tauk Kyay company, a quasi-state controlled firm, in order to join their colleagues who were fighting with troops from the Kachin Independence Army's (KIA) 6 battalion at Myuak Pyu near the Seng Ja Bum jade mine.
Dozens of individuals dressed as miners entered the mine compound but left shortly afterward in military uniforms on their way to the frontline, a KIA soldiers told the Kachin News Group. The KIA is said to have responded to the ploy by targeting several buildings used by the firm, seriously damaging them in the process.
According to an officer from the KIA's battalion 6 three of the miner/soldiers were later killed in battle and more than 40 injured. More fighting occurred in the same area on Wednesday August 29 when a five hour firefight resulted in more Burmese army deaths and the death of a KIA solider, KIA sources say.
Located in Western Kachin state, the Hpakant region is the world's only source of true jadedite. Proceeds from the annual state run jade and gem fair are one of the government's top revenue earners.
Prior to the 1994 ceasefire revolutionary taxes imposed on jade mining and trading in the Hpakant area was a key source of income for the KIA. After the ceasefire however the group lost its right to tax the lucrative industry. When the ceasefire ended last year the KIO again returned to taxing Hpakant's jade trade.