Burma military expands conflict in Kachin State with air power

Since December, Burma Army’s use of helicopter gunships and jets to support ground offensives against Kachin Independence Army (KIA), with civilians being killed in the crossfire. New offensives
have opened in Lajayang, Pang Wa, and Nam San Yang.

The humanitarian organisation, Free Burma Rangers (FBR), which delivers aid to IDP’s in the area of conflict, says attacks have occurred in Hpum Pyen Bum, a KIA camp in Ba Maw
 District, Daw Hpung Yang Township. In the attack, 300 Burma Army soldiers from Divisions 88 and 101 began attacking the camp with 
mortar fire at 4:00 AM on 7 January 2013 and took over the camp on 8 January
2013 at 4:30 PM.

FBR said three Mi24 helicopters and four fixed-wing aircraft supported 
the operation with direct fire.

“KIA troops retreated when the air strikes began,
and are maintaining a nearby position.” The FBR stated in a situation report released on the 11th of January.

On 27 December 2012 the Burma 
Army used heavy artillery in a civilian area. The attack killed at least one villager, a 50 year-old woman from the area. Three other villagers also sustained injuries as a result of the artillery strike.

On 28 December 2012 the Burma Army used 3 helicopters in an attack near Laiza.
”While dropping bombs and rockets upon villages in the area, the Burma Army destroyed 
the bridge that connects Myint Gyi Nah, Ba Maw and Laiza,” the FBR stated.

This has had a crippling effect on the local economy, which relies on the bridge for the movement of goods and people.
On 6 January, the Burma Army attacked Nam San Yang village, that FBR notes has no KIA presence.

“KIA troops near the area estimate that approximately 300
 Burma Army troops came to the village, and burned many homes.”

The FBR said that the weapons used were large 105mm howitzers.

The Women’s League of Burma (WLB), in a public statement said the degrading situation in Kachin State is evidence that Burma’s government is either unwilling or unable to cease human right abuses against ethnic minorities in Burma.

“There has not been a single airstrike for 20 years, but now government forces are using jet fighters and helicopters to launch attacks near civilian areas,” WLB General Secretary Tin Tin Nyo said.

The Ethnic Human Rights Network has accused the Burma Army of using chemical weapons in the conflict. “Many people are fleeing into refugee camps that are based under the fighter jet path of the government and many children are living under the threat of chemical weapons,” the Ethnic Human Rights Network said in a public statement.

Mr Yaw Na, a spokesperson for the Ethnic Human Rights Network spoke to Karen News about the lack of condemnation of the attacks by the government’s military on the Kachin, from either the pro-democracy icon, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or her political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

“We are disappointed that we have heard nothing from Suu Kyi or the NLD on the Kachin situation. There’s plenty of talk about development, but nothing on this conflict.”

The Kachin State conflict first erupted in June 2011, when Burma’s Army broke a ceasefire agreement to attack the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The current conflict has left as many as 100,000 people displaced.

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