Around 30 Burmese troops are presumed dead after an ambush by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on a convoy in Kachin state’s Momauk township yesterday afternoon.
Two trucks carrying government soldiers along the Bhamo-to-Myitkyina highway were damaged in the attack; one of the two carrying more than two dozen troops was blown to pieces, according to the spokesperson of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).
The attack came as government representatives were holding talks with the KIA at its headquarters in Laiza. The two sides have been engaged in heavy fighting over the past two months in various regions of Kachin state, forcing the displacement of some 20,000 people.
Government newspapers yesterday reported that the KIA had destroyed a number of roads and bridges in Kachin state.
The reasons behind the outbreak in violence focus largely on attempts by Naypyidaw to gain control over swathes of Kachin state and neighbouring Shan state, where the KIA has territory. The campaign has also been taken to Karen and Karenni state bordering Thailand, where various insurgent groups are based.
As well as exacting retribution on ethnic armies who refused to become government-controlled Border Guard Forces, Naypyidaw is also looking to secure areas around lucrative energy projects in Kachin and Shan state, the majority of which are backed by China.
An article in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said that the Burmese army had fought the KIA “for the sake of project and public security”, a rare admission of a key reason behind its operations in the country’s north.
Despite several attempts at negotiation, skirmishes continue to break out. Colonel Than Aung, Kachin state’s Minister for Border and Security Affairs sent a handwritten letter to the KIO warning that negotiations would take time.