Kachin State Day celebrations curtailed as fighting spreads

kachin-state-day-burmaDue to the increasingly unstable security situation in northern Burma, authorities in Kachin state were forced this year to significantly scale down celebrations to mark the state's official annual January 10th holiday.  Usually Kachin State Day is marked with a traditional Manau festival held in the state capital, but this year Myitkyina's Manau Park lay empty, instead a short 20-minute event was held in a Myitkyina government building.

Unlike previous years when senior representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) celebrated the holiday hand in hand with military and government officials, this year the KIO was the subject of official scorn.  Speaking before an audience of approximately 1,000 people, including civil servants, NGO staff and students, Kachin State chief minister Lajawn Ngan Seng repeatedly blamed the KIO for preventing peace in the state.

Contrary to the opinions of Lajawn Ngan Seng, most Kachin blame the country's rulers for the last seven months of fighting between the KIO and government forces.  The KIO's 17-year long cease fire ended last June when the Burmese army attacked KIO positions.  The attack was seen by many observers as a reaction to the KIO's refusal to follow the government's order to transform into a border guard force.

This year's subdued Kachin State Day was the 64th annual celebration of the event.  

KIO launches strike on Loije army base
Hours before the official government's Kachin State Day event, at about 3am, soldiers from the KIO's armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked a Burmese army base near the Chinese border at Loije in Manmaw (Bhamo) district in eastern Kachin State.  According to local villagers the exchange of gun fire lasted for about 30 minutes.

According to eyewitnesses the early morning attack drew the attention of Chinese security, who could be seen observing the incident from their side of the border.  Stray bullets from the firefight appear to have hit Chinese immigration buildings located near the base, eyewitnesses added.

Currently, the Loije military base is home to members of the Light Infantry Battalion No. 321 from Shwenyaungpyin in Waingmaw Township.  LIB 321 is headed by Lt-Col Zaw Myo Htut.

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