Massive military build-up reported near KIA headquarters

Tensions have been growing near Laiza in recent weeks as junta reinforcements continue to pour into the area

Myanmar’s military has sent some 1,000 troops to a village near the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stronghold of Laiza in recent weeks, according to a spokesperson for the group.

KIA information officer Col. Naw Bu said the area around Nam Sang Yang, a village located just 20km north of Laiza, has seen a massive influx of regime soldiers since the start of the month.

“They’re coming in convoys of around 80-100 troops each, from both Myitkyina and Bhamo. There are now around 1,000 of them around Nam Sang Yang,” he said.

Nam Sang Yang is located about halfway between Myitkyina and Bhamo and is the closest point to Laiza on the highway linking the two cities.

According to Col. Naw Bu, the columns moving north from Bhamo have been launching relentless attacks around Nam Sang Yang since entering the area.

He added, however, that despite regular artillery fire by the regime forces, no major clashes have taken place since the two sides engaged in heavy fighting near Nam Sang Yang on July 3.

“No serious battle has broken out yet. Maybe they’re waiting for orders from above. It appears they’re just building up their forces right now,” he said, noting that some of the junta columns have been hiding in forested areas since their arrival.

The recent tensions have forced many local civilians to flee the area since last week, according to residents.

“We’ve had to leave our farms and livestock behind,” said one Nam Hseng Yang villager who spoke to Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity.

While most have fled to a camp for internally displaced persons in Waingmaw Township, some are staying in the nearby village of Ka Zu Yang, located just north of Nam Hseng Yang, the man added.

“We built a makeshift camp here so that we could return home easily when things settle down. I don’t want to have to leave my village for a long time like back in 2011,” he said.

Myanmar’s military and the KIA have been fighting since the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire in 2011. Most residents of Nam Hseng Yang did not begin to return to the village until 2019.

Hostilities have intensified since the military seized power in February 2021. As resistance to the coup grew in the wake of violent crackdowns on peaceful protests, the KIA began providing military training and other support to anti-regime forces.

In October of last year, junta airstrikes targeting a music festival held to celebrate the founding of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation, killed dozens of people, including entertainers and other civilians.

Fighting between the KIA and the military has also been reported recently in Sagaing Region’s Indaw Township, which borders Kachin State.

According to data collected by the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, a total of 90 battles broke out in northeastern Myanmar in June, down slightly from the 95 recorded in the previous month.

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