The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has halted all civilian travel on an important jade mining road in Hpakan (Hpakant) Township in Kachin State, due to the ongoing government offensive in the area.
An official with the KIO's armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) told the Kachin News Group (KNG) that as of 12 PM January 4 all civilian travel would be banned on the Hpakan to Myitkyina road.
The official from the Awng Lawt-based 2nd Brigade, who declined to give his name, told KNG , “we had to issue the temporary order for the shutdown of the Hpakan road because the government is sending more military columns to Hpakan. We don’t want to cause harm to civilians when we are defending ourselves from Burmese troops”.
Three hours before the closure, Kachin resistance forces clashed with government troops on the road in the Noi Daw Bum area near Ma-U Pyin village, witnesses reported. According to KIA officials three Burmese troops were killed during the firefight.
Most of the Myitkyina-Hpakan road has been under the control of Kachin forces since the government began a new offensive against the KIO in June of last year. The KIO resumed tax collection in the Hpakan jade area once fighting began 6 months ago. A practice that was halted during the group's 17 year ceasefire with the central government.
According to another KIA official with the 2nd Brigade the road will be reopened when the government ends its offensive against the KIO.
Burma is the world’s largest producer of jade and tax collection from the export precious stones is estimated to be the third largest source of revenue for the Burmese government.