KIA speculates that battles with Myanmar army could intensify in Kachin State

Clashes that broke out in Kachin State at the beginning of February between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) could become more frequent and severe, a spokesperson for the KIA warned. 

Recent battles have taken place in the townships of Hpakant, Mansi, Mohnyin, Putao and Sumprabum, with the military escalating to the use of airstrikes against the combined forces of the KIA and the People’s Defence Force (PDF). 

“The KIA is standing ready at the frontlines and the military council is sending reinforcements,” KIA spokesperson Col Naw Bu told Myanmar Now. “We are in a situation where a battle could break out at any moment.”

The allied KIA and Putao PDF attacked and seized a base belonging to a military-aligned militia near the village of Tsum Pi Yang in Putao on February 1 and 2. In response, the junta’s forces opened fire on the area with helicopters the following day, Col Naw Bu said. 

On Monday, the military sent in 200 armed personnel, including militia members, to Tsum Pi Yang. The KIA-PDF alliance attacked the column at Long Sha Yan village, 12 miles from Putao town. 

“The situation is very tense in those areas, as well. The junta forces were coming from Putao towards Long Sha Yan, and they were not turning back, which means that they were reinforcements sent to Tsum Pi Yang,” Col Naw Bu explained. 

Tsum Pi Yang is located on the road connecting Putao to the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina. It is 48 miles from Putao Township’s administrative centre. 

Five locals were injured in a February 3 airstrike carried out by the military on the area, and around 100 people fled into the nearby forests. Citing the ongoing tension, a villager in hiding said that they still do not dare to return home. 

“We are very scared as we have heard that there were battles everyday around Long Sha Yang. We are scared about helicopters coming over here,” the villager from Tsum Pi Yang said. 

A KPDF member is seen in the forest on November 5, 2021 (KPDF-Hopin)

He told Myanmar Now that after one week in the forests, the displaced locals were in need of food and warm clothing, as well as access to healthcare as some had fallen ill. 

The junta also sent reinforcements to Hpakant following February 3 attacks by the KIA-PDF forces on the Jar Yar Yang military base in Hpakant’s Long Khin village and the Maw Han police station in Mohnyin Township.

The reinforcements were ambushed by the KIA some 20 miles east of Hpakant, and trapped during a battle that lasted from February 4 until Monday, when the junta sent in two fighter jets and one assault helicopter to fire on the area a total of 10 times, according to locals. 

An elderly man and woman were killed in the airstrikes, and another four civilians were injured. 

Around 100 displaced persons from three area communities sought refuge from the fighting in Hseng Hpa Yar on February 4, according to a man from the village. 

“They have all gone back now. They’re still being very cautious, because we don’t know if more battles will break out,” he added.

The total number of casualties on either side was not known at the time of reporting. 

Although fighting had stopped in the area by Tuesday, reinforcement troops were still being sent in by helicopter and locals fear that the military will carry out a “clearance operation” in villages along the road connecting Hpakant to the major town of Kamaing in the township. 

Local news sources have reported that the military recently sent large numbers of soldiers to Kachin State from central Myanmar. Col Naw Bu said that 40 military vehicles had been seen heading towards Kachin State from Mandalay in late January, possibly bringing troops and supplies.

Gen N’Ban La, the chairperson of the Kachin Independence Organisation—the political wing of the KIA—vowed on Kachin Revolution Day, February 5, to eradicate the military dictatorship, and called on armed organisations nationwide to support the movement and the National Unity Government. 

In addition to PDF fighters, several units from the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) and the Arakan Army (AA) are also inside KIA territory as allies to the organisation. 

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