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Burmese government forces have distributed leaflets in the Shan State city of Lashio, warning residents of an imminent attack by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). Security forces are said to be on “high alert”.
However, a spokesperson for the KIA today refuted the allegations and accused the Burmese military of “spreading lies”. He told DVB the misinformation campaign should in fact be read as a veiled threat against the local population.
The leaflets, which were distributed by Burmese soldiers to people in the street and at their homes, say that the Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces] has received a tip-off that the Kachin and Ta’ang ethnic armed groups are planning a “terrorist attack” in Lashio Township. The Tatmadaw warned that public markets, government buildings and Lashio railway station could all be targets for bombings.
According to the leaflets, the KIA has sent six men and four women to Lashio to carry out a bomb attack. It says that prior to this, 20 insurgents with expertise in bomb-making were sent into the town on a reconnaissance mission “to determine the best targets”.
The pamphlets also contain graphic pictures reported to show dead victims of the ethnic armies, as well as scenes of torture.
Government forces’ Tactical Operations Commander Col. Kyaw Than Swe said that the pamphlets were intended as a public safety measure, and he called on all local residents in Lashio to assist in preventing acts of terror.
According to Lashio residents who spoke to DVB, the Burmese army has beefed up security in the town, including patrols in armoured vehicles.
Situated some 200 kilometres northeast of Mandalay, the town of Lashio has a population of around 130,000, made up mostly of Shan, Burman and Chinese residents.
A spokesperson for the Shan State police force, Pol Col Aung Myat Moe, told DVB today that he would not accuse the KIA and TNLA directly, only to say that “ethnic armed groups” were planning an attack. He identified Pyi Htaung Su Main Road, which is the highway from Lashio to Hsipaw and Muse, as a likely target.
Aung Myat Moe said that police were being stationed close to busy areas in Lashio Township and that they were monitoring “any suspicious people”.
“I would think that bridges would be the targets for bombing attacks,” he said. “However, we will not accuse any ethnic armed group by name. We do not want to accuse anyone without evidence.”
In response, Col. Naw Bu, the spokesperson for the KIA, told DVB by telephone today that the Kachin group did not participate in terrorism nor would it conduct an operation that would cause civilian casualties.
He accused the Tatmadaw of “spreading lies” with the intention of “damaging the dignity” of the KIA and TNLA among the public.
“The Burmese military are actually threatening the public,” he continued. “We, the KIA, would never act like that. We only attack the Tatmadaw – never innocent people.”
At the time of press, TNLA was unavailable for comment.
Neither the KIA nor the TNLA are signatories to the government-backed nationwide ceasefire agreement. Both groups have been regularly engaged in armed clashes against the Burmese army in northern Shan State and Kachin State.