When the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) did not support the Myitsone Dam project in Burma, the military-backed President Thein Sein government launched a major offensive, recently targeting the KIA’s Brigade 4 which occupied a key position near the Sino-Burma border.
After a new military conflict started between the Burmese army and the KIA in June in Kachin State, the KIA post along the Myitkyina-Kambaiti route banned trucks loaded with construction materials and equipment, according to truck drivers on that road. The KIA also damaged key bridges on the road using mines. Part of the Stilwell Road (also called Ledo) was reconstructed in 2006 at a cost of 97 million Yuan (US$15.2 million) by Chinese companies from Yunnan province.
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has waged revolutionary war for self-determination, including having more power over natural resources in Kachin State. Since June 9, skirmishing has escalated between the KIA and government troops.
The warfare is related to the outsized developmental dam projects on the Irrawaddy River being built by China.
Construction continues on a $3.6 billion hydropower dam project on the Irrawaddy River in the face of widespread objections from many environmentalists and social activists, including several celebrities.
The Myitsone Dam, a joint effort by Burma’s previous military regime and the China Power Investment Corp., is estimated to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity and 90 percent of the output to be exported to China. Under an agreement signed by Chinese and Burmese officials, CPI will receive 70 percent of the project’s profits. CPI has a plan to build and manage six additional dams on the Irrawaddy and its tributaries.
Most analysts believe that Burma Army’s new military maneuver in Kachin State aims to protect the Chinese benefits than the Kachin people’s basic rights. The Burma Army has launched a storm-offensive using more than 1,000 soldiers against the KIA’s Brigade 4, based in Northern Shan State, quoting local witnesses Kachin News Group said Saturday.
According to KIA brigade officers, the battle is continuing at Huphet, Manje, Mung Hkawm, Bang Hpik and Dima. Government troops are firing mortars into the villages in the fighting area.
Burma Army’s Bureau of Special Operations-2 (BSO-2), Lt-Gen Aung Than Htut is the commander of the offensive, KIA officers said. KIA’s Battalion 2, Battalion 8 and Battalion 9 are resisting the government’s offensive by two Light Infantry Divisions, LID No. 88 and No. 99, which consist of 18 battalions. Magway-based LID No. 88 and Meiktila-based LID No. 99 launched the offensive early Saturday morning. Burmese troops mainly fired mortar rounds at the KIA post in Loi Lem Bum in the evening, said a KIA Brigade officer.
The battle is the largest offensive against the KIA troops since the civil war started on June 9. Many Burmese soldiers were killed in action and more than 60 injured in the fighting, confirmed a KIA Brigade officer. The Burma Army’s storm-offensive aims to do away with the KIA’s Brigade 4 troops from the area where the oil and gas pipelines to China will cross in Northern Shan State, said the KIA officers.
According to local sources, civilians in the war zone are being told to leave their villages by the KIA. Thousands of local ethnic Kachin and Shan Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the war zone are fleeing to safe areas and the China border. However, China is strictly refusing entry to ethnic refugees (IDPs) from Burma who are seeking to cross its border, said local witnesses.
Over 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers and over 80 Border Guard Force troops have jointly blocked Burmese IDPs from crossing into Chinese territory at the Chinese Manghai border gate, opposite Mongkoe, said Mongkoe residents. Chinese citizens in Mongkoe and other places in Shan State are allowed to return to their homeland, said witnesses.
Currently, over 20,000 Kachin IDPs are seeking shelter at the KIA headquarters at Laiza and other areas close to China. China is also blocking the delivery of food, emergency shelter and medicines from China for the Kachin IDPs, referring refugee aid groups, Kachin News Group said.
Now, there are some hot questions among the citizens. What is the objective of the Burma Army’s current large offensive against the KIO, and why have their peace talks been discontinued? Has the Thein Sein government an objective to colonize the Kachin State under China’s orders?