By Daniel Wynn
Locals say a major urban conflict between the two parties could be looming in coming weeks, as another armed clash between the army and rebel fighters occurred in Kachin state yesterday.
Kachin Independence Army rebels now control some of the main roads outside Myitkyina, the capital of the resource-rich region.
According to locals, government troops marching down a main road leading to the jade mining town of Lone Khin engaged with rebels on Tuesday. A school at the entrance of the town was hit by mortar fire. One civilian man was reportedly killed but no schoolchildren were hurt in the fighting, which took place around 6 a.m.
“We are living with the constant fear of crossfire,” said Naw Ji, a businessman in the town.
The rebels have been attempting to regain control over territories which locals say were encroached on by the army during the 17-year ceasefire that collapsed last year.
Hkun Awng, a Kachin peace mediator of the Peace Talk Creation Group based in Myitkyina, said clashes have become more frequent and intense and there is no prospect of them ending soon.
No conclusive results were reached in a number of peace talks between the two parties to renew the ceasefire. Awng says that future talks can only be successful if the rebels are given a chance to talk directly with government army representatives, not just with civilian government ministers acting as peace negotiators for President Thein Sein.
“The KIA believes army officials will have more influence and legitimacy,” he said.
He added that he was told today by Aung Min, the top government negotiator, that the next round of peace talks will possibly include an army official representing the army’s deputy commander-in-chief.
The fighting has created an estimated 100,000 refugees across Kachin state. Two weeks ago, authorities stopped locals in the newly affected areas from travelling to refugee camps in Myitkyina.
“Under the government order, we are not allowed to accept new refugees. And we don’t know why,” said Sharo Naw La, a refugee camp supervisor in Myitkyina.