Up to six policemen and two civilians were killed in southern Kachin state yesterday evening after their vehicle was hit by an RPG as it returned from the site of a major Chinese-backed hydropower project.
The policemen had been escorting the two civilians, believed to be electricians, through Bhamo district, which borders China. That region has experienced heavy fighting over the past two months.
The vehicle had reportedly been sent to fix air-conditioning units at the Taping dam site. “They went to fix the air-con yesterday and headed back to Bhamo in a jeep in the evening,” said a resident of the town. All on board are believed killed.
He speculated that the attack came from the Kachin Independence Arrmy (KIA), which has been battling Burmese troops in Bhamo and across the northern state, although this has not been confirmed.
The man added that Bhamo’s deputy police commander was among the victims, but this has also not been independently verified.
The Kachin News Group reports however that no civilians were on board, but that the jeep carried military personnel, policemen and Burmese intelligence agents.
Several instances of violence have been linked with the Taping dam, which is financed by the China Datang Corporation. In June a number of Chinese workers were temporarily trapped inside the site after fighting erupted around them, while the KIA the same month blew up a key bridge close to the dam.
The construction of the dam several years ago was, like many of the foreign-backed infrastructural and energy projects in Kachin state, met with heavy civilian and armed resistance. Much of the recent fighting in Kachin state has occurred near to dam sites, the security of which some claim is a main thrust behind the Burmese army’s attempts to rout the KIA.
The RRG attack coincided with the second day of meetings between regional government officials and the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), in the town of Lajaryang town.
Lajaryang lies in between Bhamo and the Kachin capital of Myitkyina – the main highway linking the two towns has seen sporadic bursts of fighting since June.
Both sides have said they want a ceasefire, despite fighting continuing across the state. The KIA had maintained a 17-year truce with the government until the fighting began on 9 June, following its refusal to become a Border Guard Force.