Heavy fighting on last day of census in Burma’s northern Kachin state

Villagers from war zone in Manwin area are preparing to transport their family belongings to the Nam Hkam by motorcycles.

On the last day, of the first census in Burma in decades, heavy fighting broke out between the government and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in southern Kachin state near China border.
According to Kachin Independence Army officers, the armed-wing of KIO, fighting started on Thursday after government forces launched a military offensive against battalion 27 to try and re-capture its lucrative Bang Hkam gate, close to the Burma-China border in southern Kachin state.

The Bang Hkam gate, near the Shweli River in Manwin village tract in Mansi Township, Bhamo district, is one of the main border routes for the timber trade to China’s Nongdao camp. The area has been controlled by the KIA since the conflict restarted in June 2011.

More than 1,000 government troops from Light Infantry Division 88 and Military Operation Command 16 (MOC-16) have been involved in the current fighting, Maj. Zau Ba, KIA commander for Battalion 27, told the Kachin News Group (KNG).

On the first day of clashes, a KIO administrative office in Bang Hkung Yang village was captured by government forces, confirmed Lashi La Seng, head of KIO administration for battalion 27 area.

Four KIA soldiers were injured and more than 30 government soldiers were killed in the fighting during two-day clash, Commander Zau Ba said.
At the time of press KNG has not been able to independently confirm this information.

Three mortar shells fired from the Manwin government military, struck the KIO-controlled Lagat Yang IDP. No casualties or injuries have been reporter, said pastor Lahkang Awng Lum who provides assistance to IPS in the area.

IDPs flee to China
Thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) have fled to the nearby to China's Nongdao Township in Yunnan province. They were forced out of their homes by new fighting that broke out near the Bang Hkam gate, close to the Burma-China border in southern Kachin state, said KIO officials.

The entire population of Lagat Yang camp, numbering over a 1,000, and over 10 ethnic Shan villages, were completely displaced by clashes, said Lashi La Seng, KIO battalion 27 administrative officer.
The fighting, from April 10 to 12, happened near the Shweli River in Manwin village tract in Mansi Township, Bhamo district
The KIO has counted over 2,000 IDPs currently sheltering around Kawng Chang in Nongdao. An additional 1,000 displaced are believed to be in China, near the border.

With the help of local Kachin Baptist and Roman Catholic churches, hundreds of IDPs have been safely transported to the nearby Nam Hkam Township in Shan state by trucks and motorcycles, said Pastor Lahkang Awng Lum, from Manwin Kachin Baptist Church.

IDPs are in desperate need of food and shelters as most were only able to leave with the clothes on their backs, said the pastor. There wasn’t room to accommodate IDPs at the overcrowded displaced camps in Manwin.

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