By Zin Linn
The Burmese military regime has deployed tanks and soldiers near Laiza, the Headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), in eastern Kachin State, northern Burma, quoting local sources Kachin News Group [KNG] said yesterday.
Eyewitnesses said six tanks from Northern Regional Command stationed in the Kachin State’s capital Myitkyina moved their position to Waingmaw, a town where Burma Army’s Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 58 located. On Feb 22, at 10:30 a.m. local time, after crossing the Irrawaddy River by the Ba-la-min-htin Bridge, which connected Myitkyina and Waingmaw Burmese Army tanks and trucks marched into Waingmaw Township, as said by eyewitnesses.
Two Burmese army battalions – IB No. 238 and Tanai-based IB No. 297 – were stationed in the Sadung Township before the tanks arrived in Waingmaw, KIO officials at Laiza HQ said. People in Sadung said more Burmese troops and government drug eradication teams are currently operating in the area, preventing destruction of opium fields by the KIO.
Previously, the KIO has been taking responsibility to annihilate several opium fields in the controlled area of the Border Guard Force under command of Burma Army, formerly known as the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), Nhpang Naw Bu, spokesperson of the KIO Drug Eradication Committee based in Laiza said.
The opium has been largely cultivated in areas run by the junta and the NDA-K, which transformed into the BGF in November, 2009. Waingmaw Township has been the largest producer of opium in Kachin State since 2004.
Officials of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) confirmed that Burmese troops under Northern Regional Command are more and more moving near KIO territories in Kachin State due to instructions from the Ministry of Defense, according to the Thailand-based Kachin News Group.
On 7 February, the troops from the KIA’s battalion 27 based in Manwin Township fired Burmese Army’s the Mohnyin-based IB 15 , according to KIA officials. Burmese soldiers avoided entering the KIO’s territories since then.
After the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the KIO is the strongest ethnic armed organization in Burma. The group has played a leading role in the recent formation of two ethnic political and military alliances- the Committee of Emergence for a Federal Union (CEFU) and the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). The alliance is calling for the formation of a genuine federal union, with equal rights for all ethnic people in Burma.
On Monday, February 21, the KIO called a special meeting for members of the People’s Defense Force, in Laiza. During the meeting, the KIA’s Chief of Staff, Maj-Gen Gunhtang Gam Shawng made a public announcement that all members have to serve permanent military duty in the KIA if necessary, participants said.
The People’s Defense Force was formed last year under the KIO’s Department of General Administration (DGA), also known as the Civil Administration Department. Observers believe civil war may possibly break out in Kachin State at any time because of hostilities of the Burmese Army.
At the same time, Burma Army has been reinforcing more platoons and tanks to military front line areas in Shan State southern Mongnawng township, opposite the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’s controlled territory, reported Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N) referring to local sources.
Six tanks were sent from Taunggyi and arrived in Mongnawng, southeast of SSA’s First Brigade headquarters on 9 February. And more than 20 tanks are expected to deploy, according to local sources. On the same day, six military trucks carrying about 200 men and supplies were reportedly heading to Mongnawng as well an eye witness said: “All soldiers were armed and in full uniforms.”
All at once, skirmishing between the opposition Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and Burmese troops that began last November has been spreading in the area, while the DKBA has received assistance from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF).
According some political analysts, there will be full-scale military offensives in the ethnic controlled areas after President Thein Sein’s government took the office in mid-March. In fact, Burmese junta has no true purpose to give self-determination toward ethnic minorities in order to build national reconciliation. It is clear that no proposal of the ethnic representatives was taken into account during the national convention (1993 – 2007) in which the principles of the 2008 constitution were laid down.