A recent offensive by Burmese government forces against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in the Hpakan jade mining area in the west of Kachin state, has forced hundreds of local villagers to flee for their safety, according to refugees in the area.
An estimated 300 people have taken shelter in a Kachin Baptist church in Lawng Hkang town, with others seeking refuge in a nearby Catholic Church or with friends, our source said.
Earlier this week the KIO enacted a complete ban on all public travel along the Hpakan jade mining road due to the ongoing conflict with the Burmese army.
According to the KIO’s armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), over 400 government troops are presently en route to the Hpakan jade region to reinforce the large number of troops already in the area. The reinforcements are said to be troops from the Magway-based Infantry Division No. 88, according to KIA officials.
On Friday morning at about 7 AM a Burmese army column was ambushed at Ga Matep by troops from the KIA's 6th battalion. At least 6 Burmese soldiers were killed according to KIA sources.
On Friday evening another government column in the same area suffered heavy casualties after they set off KIA land mines buried on the Hpakan road between Gauri Lagat Yang and Kamaing, said KIA officers. The exact number of dead or injured is not known.
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. Burma is the world’s largest producer of jade and tax collection from the export of precious stones is estimated to be the third largest source of revenue for the Burma's central government.
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