Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burma's government broke out over the weekend near Sawlaw and Chipwe, two towns in northern Kachin state. The exchange of fire began on Saturday when troops from the army's 29th Infantry Battalion attacked KIA units from the group's 10th Battalion.
Two Border Guard Force (BGF) units made of up of troops who were formerly part of the New Democratic Army Kachin (NDAK) were also seen fighting on the government side. It is unclear if there were any casualties from either side.
Located north east of the Kachin state capital Myitkyina, Chipwe is home to a small 2,000 MW dam built to supply electricity for the construction of the now officially suspended Myitsone dam. According to local civilians, skirmishes between KIA units and the army also took place near Pangwa, a town on the China Burma border.
Both Chipwe and Pangwa were former strongholds of the now officially defunct NDAK. Pangwa was for many years a key tax collection checkpoint on the trade route between the Chinese city of Tengchong and Myitkyina, earning millions in annual for the NDAK's chief Zahkung Ting Ying (also Za Khun Ting Ring).
The latest fighting comes just days after senior Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) officials met with the Burmese government's top negotiator Aung Min in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. The KIO representatives were part of a delegation from the Union National Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of Burma's armed ethnic groups.
The talks sponsored by Japan's largest charity the Nippon Foundation were positive according to participants but failed to produce any breakthrough.