Over the past two weeks fighting between Burmese military forces and members of the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) spread to southern Kachin state near Sagaing division, an area relatively untouched so far by the military's 15-month offensive against the KIO.
In southern Kachin state on Monday clashes broke out along a stretch of rail track between Nang Si Aung and Mawhan stations, according to an officer with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The fighting on Monday followed similar clashes in the same area on September 6th when a fire fight allegedly killed three Burmese officers, the KIA officer said.
Last week members of the Kachin resistance used explosives to destroy a railway bridge near Mawhan station, according to the KIA officer who spoke to the Kachin News Group on condition of anonymity. The officer claimed that the bridge was targeted to prevent the military from sending more troop reinforcements from lower Burma.
Up until now armed combat between the military and the KIA had mostly occurred in eastern and central Kachin State not along the Myitkyina to Mandalay rail route. The KIO's concerted attempts to block supply lines in southern Kachin state appear directly related to the ongoing clashes that are taking place in the state's western jade rich Hpakant region, where the Kachin resistance has made significant gains over the past few weeks. The Hpakant region is home to the world's only commercially viable supply of true jadeite. The government's control of the Hpakant region's jade mining operations has reportedly earned billions in revenue since the early 1990's when the KIO relinquished control of most of the area.
It is believed that the military is attempting a major offensive in Hpakant in addition to the ongoing attempts to in the east of the state dislodge the KIA from strategically significant posts that protect Laiza, home to the KIO's de facto capital. The KIO's Deputy General Secretary-2, Salang Kaba Lah Nan who serves as the group's main spokesperson was recently quoted in Burma's exile media claiming that the army is gearing up for a major military offensive against the KIO using thousands of troops from over 80 battalions.