Burma army seizes KIO post in Hpakant

A soldier from LID 66 takes position in Kachin's jade-rich Hpakant.

Troops from Burma's army took control of a small outpost held by the Kachin Independence Organization's (KIO) armed wing this past weekend in western Kachin state's jade rich Hpakant Township. The post which was controlled by troops from the Kachin Independence Army's (KIA) Battalion 6 under the group's Brigade 2 fell on Sunday shortly after government forces launched a barrage of heavy artillery at it.

A KIA commander stationed in the area, Major Tang San, told the Kachin News Group (KNG) that the army deployed a group of more than 60 troops from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 5 (under command of Light Infantry Division 66) during the assault.

“Yesterday (28 December) evening at around 4:10 pm, they (Burma army) attacked and then seized our post while there were only 10 soldiers guarding it,” the major said.

There were no casualties on the KIA side, Major Tang San said. He predicted that there will likely be more clashes between the KIA and the Burma army because the latter appears to be preparing further attacks on the KIO.

In recent weeks the army had dispatched more troops to Hpakant, some of these appear to have been involved in the attack on the Hpakant outpost.

On 19th December, about 20 Burma army troops from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 602 stormed a small KIA post near Aung Sa Kung village, Daw Hpum Yang Sub-township, in Kachin State and killed 2 KIA soldiers and detained two more.

San Aung, a member of the Peace Coordination Group (PCG) based in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State said he had no exact information about the most recent incident in Hpakant. According to San Aung the chief of the Hpakant City police department denied any knowledge about the clash and claimed everything was stable in Hpakant Township.

There have been increasing military tensions between KIA troops and Burma government troops across Kachin state after the KIA rejected demands issued in October by the commander of Infantry Battalion (IB) 1 (under LID 66) that a KIA Battalion 6 army camp be moved.

The KIO's technical advisory team based in Myitkyina has boycotted the regularly scheduled monthly meeting with the Burma army in order to reduce tensions between both sides. The Burma army artillery units fired on a KIA officer training school killing 23 cadets and injuring 20 more. The dead were all from armed ethnic groups that are allied with the KIA and not actually KIA troops as has been widely reported.

The seventh round of the talks to form a nationwide ceasefire agreement took place in Rangoon on December 22nd and 23rd. During the meeting officials from the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), an entity that represents many of Burma's armed ethnic groups including the KIO sat down with government representatives from the Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC). They ultimately agreed to meet again in future.

The KIO’s chief negotiator Maj-Gen Gun Maw did not attend the meeting which was also not attended by any representatives from the military. The KIO's absence appears to be related to the increase in tensions between the KIO and the government that has developed since the November 19th shelling attack on Laiza. During the meeting NCCT representatives urged the government “to avoid” further incidents like the November 19th attack on Laiza.

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