Last week Kachin Independence Army's Battalion 6 based in the war torn Hpakant (Hpakan) region of Kachin State concluded a short training program for new recruits which included 29 soldiers from the Arakanese (Rakhine) ethnic group. Some of the Arakanese volunteers appeared to be workers who previously toiled in the Hpakant's areas numerous jade mines.
A ceremony was held on September 28th at Anang Hpyen It Dabang training camp to mark the end of the training session which in addition to the Arakanese trainees included 13 Kachin women soldiers and 136 men.
The Commander for the KIA's 6th Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Nhkum Zau Doi gave a speech urging the newly minted soldiers to protect Kachin State, said one local resident who was in attendance. He was joined on the podium by for by Captain Naw Rin and Hkawng Gyung from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) who also addressed the crowd.
“We have been asking the government for self-determination since 1960s but now we are not asking the government we are asking God directly,” Zau Doi said.
“We are not attacking or invading other places but protecting our own land which was given to us by God,” he added.
The assembled audience was warned that the Burmese Army is planning to capture Seng Ja Bum and Ginsi, both villages located under the control of the KIA, using reinforcements recently sent to the area.
The Hpakant area is known as the world's best source for true jadeite. During the 1961-1994 conflict in Kachin state the KIA funded their struggle by taxing the jade mining industry. This largely ended with the ceasefire in 1994 and the Burmese military regime profited immensely from Hpakant's jade industry until last year. Following the resumption of fighting in Hpakant the KIA was once again returned the previous practice of taxing jade mining.
Fighting has been particularly heavy in Hpakant since May when Burmese military forces launched an offensive to drive the KIA from the area.