Tension grows between junta-allied militia and KIA in gold-rich area of Hpakant 

The Myanmar army-backed Warazup militia blocked roads around a village in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) issued an ultimatum to gold miners in the area to leave by Saturday.  

The KIA’s Battalion 14 under Brigade 2 delivered an order to petrol stations on January 7 to halt  the storage of fuel in locations in and around the village of Shaduzup as of Wednesday, January 11, noting that those who disobeyed would face punitive measures from the ethnic armed organisation. 

The warning to people working in gold mines near the Moe Kaung stream west of Shaduzup was reportedly issued earlier in the month, with a deadline to exit by January 14. Several business owners and miners left the area following the KIA’s ultimatum, according to a Shaduzup resident. 

“Miners from major projects are all either leaving or halting their activities. Some have completely left, while some have just suspended their operations and have no clue what to do next,” he explained.

Following the KIA’s demands, the junta-allied Warazup militia blocked local roads into Shaduzup and set up landmines along the routes ahead of a possible attack by Kachin forces, the local man said. 

“I heard that [the KIA’s] primary objective is to cut off supplies and fuel to the [junta-controlled] gold mines but now even regular people can’t use the roads anymore,” he told Myanmar Now.

On Sunday, the Warazup militia was reportedly conducting searches of vehicles that were using the nearby Ledo Road, which was still open.

A woman living in Shaduzup told Myanmar Now that villagers were on high alert, even though no renewed clashes had broken out in the area at the time of reporting. 

“Tension is still rising on both sides, but no one has started shooting yet,” she said.

Myanmar Now tried to contact KIA spokesperson Col Naw Bu to discuss the situation developing around Shaduzup, but he could not be reached for comment. 

Infantry Battalion (IB) 297 of the Myanmar military is also stationed near the gold-rich village, around which at least 50 mines operate. 

Troops from IB 297 and members of the Warazup militia destroyed an abandoned KIA base and administrative office outside Shaduzup last September, deploying heavy artillery and airstrikes in a subsequent clash against Kachin forces. There were no reported casualties. 

In July, the same soldiers attacked a KIA base in neighbouring Tanai Township, killing two Kachin soldiers.

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