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Army mouthpiece blames Hpakant fire on KIA

Firefighters put out a blaze that destroyed a warehouse owned by a jade-mining company in Hpakant on 2 November 2016. (Photo: Myawady News)

A fire that destroyed the warehouse of a mining company operating in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township was started by members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), according to a report by the Burma Army mouthpiece Myawady News.

In an article published on Thursday, the newspaper claimed that a group of around 20 KIA fighters dressed in civilian clothing and carrying small arms arrived at the warehouse at around 6:15pm on 2 November and forced a security guard at gunpoint to show them the warehouse’s office.

According to the report, the assailants then told office staff to lie down on the ground in the courtyard while they vandalised the building and poured gasoline on vehicles parked inside the warehouse.

The attackers then set a fire using homemade explosives and beat up a driver named Sai San Thein before leaving the scene at around 7pm, the report claimed.

Military, law enforcement and fire department personnel rushed to the scene to put out the fire, successfully suppressing it around 10pm. Security forces also found nine unexploded devices at the scene, according to Myawady News.

The report said the Burmese military is now conducting operations in the area to find the culprits.

The owner of the warehouse, the Yadanar Yaung Chi Gems company, is partnered with another company, Yadanar Taungdan, which recently unearthed a massive jade slab weighing more than 200 tons.

Sources who spoke to DVB for an earlier report on the fire made no mention of an attack on the warehouse.

The KIA, an armed group that has been engaged in hostilities with the Burmese government army since the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire in 2011, is among many parties engaged in jade-mining in Hpakant, an area notorious for lawlessness.