Burma army sends more troops to Kachin state ahead of April talks

Despite recent efforts to reduce tensions with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Burma's nominal civilian government continued this week to send more troops to Kachin state, a move that will likely strain the ongoing Kachin peace process.

More than 40 military trucks carrying an estimated 500 troops arrived in the jade rich Hpakant (Hpakan) region on Tuesday and Wednesday. The newly arrived troops consist of units from the Tatmadaw's Division 101 based in Karen state's Papun district, according to an official with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)’s Battalion 6.

The newly arrived reinforcements have joined a group of more than 600 troops from Light Infantry Division No. 88, who were deployed to Hpakant earlier this year.

Although President Thein Sein's reformist government has repeatedly declared that it wants peace with the KIO, the army has also recently sent large numbers of troops to Kachin Independence Army (KIA) controlled areas in northern Shan state and Kachin state, including Pangwa, Waingmaw township and Bhamo (or Manmaw) district, the Kachin News Group has learned.

Fighting between the KIA and government forces has repeatedly broken out in northern Shan state over the last few week in territory long held by the KIA's 4th Brigade.

Talks to be held later in April
The next round of talks between Burma's government and the KIO which were supposed to be held before April 10 have been postponed till likely the end of the month because of differences relating to the KIO's desire for third party international observers, according to KIO officials based at the group's de facto capital in Laiza.

Lah Nan, the KIO's Deputy General Secretary 2 and the group's chief spokesperson told the Kachin News Group via telephone that while the KIO and the government had originally agreed to meet before April 10 nothing has been confirmed. “We have not set a new date so far. We also have yet to decide the meeting location,” Lah Nan said.

During his telephone interview Lah Nan criticized the military's recent decision to send more army reinforcements to front line military bases in Kachin state and the army's continued aggressive maneuvering in KIO territory.

Lah Nan also told KNG that the KIO has no plans as of yet to re-open its Myitkyina liaison office which was shut down by the government in 2010. Government staffs were seen cleaning the office last month, something that was seen as a hopeful development by some in the Kachin state capital.