The scale of fighting in Kachin State has increased significantly during the past month, and could be building to an attack on the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) headquarters in Laiza, say observers.
The escalation comes after peace talks between the government and KIO appeared to have broken down, with the Kachin side saying it did not trust the government’s intentions.
For the past week, armed attacks by the KIO have also been directed at non-military targets, including an attack on railways and bridges. Clashes between government outposts and KIA guerrillas have also picked up.
Residents of Myitkhyina have been advised by local authorities to avoid going outside after 8 p.m.
On Friday, the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper, reported that three bridges have been damaged in the past three days.
The Dunban Bridge on the Myitgyina-Chepwe road was damaged on Tuesday, leaving a crater on the floor of the bridge. A concrete bridge on the Waingmaw-Hsadon-Kanpaikti road and a bridge near Warazut village on the Myitgyina-Tanaing road were damaged on Wednesday, said the newspaper.
State-run media reported that in late April, a KIO brigade seized a number of vehicles owned by a private company operating in Chipwe Township and opened fire on border guard forces in Lupi after crossing over the Mayhka River from Wahsharpa region. Explosives damaged the Shapout Creek bridge in the township.
One day later, four civil servants, including a sub-township administrative official, were killed and three others were missing when four men seized a sub-township administration office in Sadon in Waingmaw Township. The KIA told Mizzima that it was not responsible for the attack.
On April 29, a mine exploded in a carriage of an express passenger train on the Mandalay-Myitkyina route in Kachin State at a location near Moenyin, injuring two people. Eight carriages of the express train derailed due to the explosion, state-run media reported.
On April 30, the KIA fired heavy weapons on Konhnaw village in Momauk township, which is a non-military target, killing a man and wounding two others, said state-run media.
On May 1, mine attacks destroyed a length of railroad tracks and nine sleeper carriages were derailed on the Myikyina- Mandalay railroad route in Kachin State.
The rash of attacks occurred during ongoing peace talks between the government’s and the KIO.
In the latest development, the KIO refused the government’s offer to hold talks in either Myitkyina or Bahmo in Kachin State. The proposed venue change for the fourth peace talk was aimed to enable ethnic leaders, township elders, and religious and political party leaders to witness the talks, the government’s peacemaking team leader told the media.
Recently, Burmese officials responded to the breakdown in talks by reshuffling the government peacemaking team to include a vice president, members of the Parliament and high military officials. Meanwhile, official state media blamed “hardline” KIO leaders for the failure to reach a cease-fire.
So far, a total of 12 armed groups have signed preliminary peace agreements with the government at the state or central level.