A senior commander in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) claimed on Sunday that 211 government soldiers have been killed and 36 injured over the past two months during heavy fighting in the Hpakant (or Hpakan or Phakant) jade mining district of western Kachin state.
The figures were given by Lt-Col. Nhkum Zau Doi, commander of KIA Battalion 6 during a speech he gave in a Kachin Baptist church in Hpakant.
Most of the dead and injured soldiers had been deployed to occupy jade-mining operations owned or connected to cronies of the previous military regime. This included 140 troops who died in late August while stationed at a jade mining compound belonging to the Wai Aung Kaba Company near the Myauk Phyu (White Monkey) jade mine.
The explosion was reportedly caused what has been described as the single highest one day death toll for the government side during its 15-month Kachin offensive so far. According to KIA sources the lethal blast was triggered by an initial smaller explosion planted by members of the Kachin resistance. When the first blast went off it caused the large stockpile of explosives used for mining which were stored at the site to explode shortly afterward, causing what was described as a huge explosion.
An additional 29 soldiers are also believed to have died at another jade mine controlled by Kyaing International, a firm owned by Daw Kyaing Kyaing, the wife of Burma's officially retired strongman Than Shwe.
According to the KIA only two of their soldiers died during the same two month period.
During his speech Commander Zau Doi said a higher power was the reason behind the KIA's success. “This is God’s success not ours”, he told the church audience, according to a member of the congregation.
The Hpakant jade mining region of western Kachin state is a lucrative source of revenue for both the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the government. While many of the area's local residents and migrant miners have fled since fighting began in the area in May. Many others have stayed behind and continued to work in the area's 3,000 mines even though the fighting remains ongoing.
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