Repeated clashes between army and KIA in Kachin ruby mine

KIA soldiers from battalion 6 Hpakant jade mining township, western Kachin state in northern Burma.

Armed clashes between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) broke out twice over the past few days, according to KIA officials and local residents.  The KIA is the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), who has been in conflict with the central government since a 17 year ceasefire ended in June 2011.

The clashes which first broke out on Friday August 8th and lasted for more than an hour near, took place at Sabaw Maw, a ruby mine located in territory controlled by KIA battalion 6 in the jade rich Hpakan Township.  The fighting began when a column of Burmese troops entered the mine area, according to a KIA officer who spoke to the Kachin News Group (www.kachinnews.com) on condition of anonymity.

More fighting happened on August 10th when another group of government troops arrived at the ruby mine. After exchanging heavy fire the Tatmadaw troops eventually entered a KIA controlled village located next to the mine and burned a KIA base, according to eyewitnesses. Government forces also tried to seize control of a KIA mountaintop post located on Loi Ne Bum however they were unable to capture the post, the KIA officer told KNG during a phone interview conducted on Tuesday.

At least four Burmese soldiers were killed during the clashes, according to ruby miners based in the area.

Eyewitnesses said they saw two Burmese injured soldiers brought back to Myitkyina in a civilian car on August 9th.  Another four injured soldiers were brought back to Myitkyina by civilian car on August 11th.

The KIA officer claimed there were no KIA casualties during the fighting.

Dozens of villagers from the mine area are now sheltering in two nearby villages Nam Ya and Kap Maw Zup on the Myitkyina to Hpakant road, according to a member of the Kachin Baptist Church based in the area.

Brief fighting also took place between government forces and KIA battalion 26 in the Ingdawgyi lake area in Mohnyin district over the weekend, said local people.

Very valuable red-colored rubies are produced from Sabaw Maw mine which started operations on a large scale basis more than a decade ago.  Mining has temporarily stopped due to the fighting.

The KIA controlled amber mines in Danai Township in Hugawng (also Hukaung) have ceased operations since more than 100 hundreds government troops were deployed to the area beginning in April.

The Naypyidaw government has shut down most of the Hpakant jade mines since May, 2012. The shutdown aims to prevent the KIO from charging miners revolutionary tax, a practice that resumed when the conflict erupted in June 2011.

Sumlut Gam, the Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) education minister who also serves as member of the KIO central committee told KNG that the army’s latest actions were an attempt to block the KIO from the gem trade.

Members of a joint committee consisting of representatives from the government and the KIO, which is tasked with monitoring the conflict, met on Tuesday in Myitkyina the capital of Kachin state to discuss the latest military conflict, Sumlut Gam told the Kachin News Group.


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