Shooting deaths occur amid heightened security, military arrests in Hpakant

A regime-appointed immigration officer was reportedly shot dead on Sunday in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, in Myanmar’s north the day after the arrest of several Kachin Independence Army (KIA) officers in the township. 

Myint Lwin, a man in his 50s serving as deputy director of the township’s immigration office, was shot dead by four gunmen in plain clothes at his home in the township’s housing complex for civil servants at around 2pm on Sunday.

Myint Lwin had been transferred to Hpakant only a few months before, according to a local man.

“The military came to investigate after the incident. We still don’t know which organisation did this, but someone else has been shot dead in the same compound before,” the man said.

The day before at around 11am, the military had carried out a raid on a meeting between jade business owners, KIA officers, and locals at the Kachin Cultural Office, located in the township’s Hpar Pyin village.

KIA officers and members, as well as several jade business owners, were arrested during the raid and one man was injured, according to a source connected with the People’s Defence Force based in the area.

“The jade business owners and KIA officers were having a meeting at the Cultural Office regarding tax affairs, and the military knew the KIA would be there and conducted a raid. Only one person was injured but more were arrested,” he said.

He stated that around 20 people were arrested, with some released on Monday morning, but Myanmar Now has yet to confirm these claims independently.

Local Kachin news outlets also reported the arrests of the KIA officers.

Two male motorcyclists were shot and killed on a trip from Hmaw Maung Hlyan village into Hpakant last Friday, and some locals believed that the military was responsible for their deaths.

The military had heightened security measures and begun conducting more thorough searches throughout Hpakant Township beginning on March 9, with a series of arrests and murders occurring over the following days.

In addition to the detention of KIA officers and jade businessmen on Saturday, the military raided Myo Thant Barbershop in the township’s Maw Wam ward at around 2 pm on Monday and arrested the owner, staff members, and several of the owner’s friends.

The precise number of people arrested in this raid and the reason for their arrest are both unknown.

Battles have broken out continuously in KIA-controlled areas of Kachin State and northern Shan State since the February 2021 military coup.

Hpakant, a town famous for its jade reserves and mines, has now become notorious due to the cruelty and severity of the ongoing conflict between the Myanmar military and its opponents for control of the area. 

The military also arrested at least 10 officers of the KIA and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), last November in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina. 

The KIA was already engaged in conflict with the Myanmar military before the February 2021 coup. The ethnic armed organisation not only publicly declared its opposition to the coup, but also offered military training to any young people willing to take up arms against the coup regime, according to statements made by anti-junta defence teams.

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