Burma Army Attack Kills 23 Cadets – “Unprovoked,” says Kachin Group

An artillery attack against the Kachin Independence Army’s Military Academy, that left at least 23 officer cadets dead and a further 20 injured, was unprovoked and endangers the push for a nationwide peace agreement, a Kachin advocacy organisation has asserted.

A statement by the Kachin Alliance, a network of Kachin community organisations based in the United States, condemned the attack as “heinous and cowardly.”

“The attack [was] unprovoked and deliberate, and is in blatant violation of the agreement reached between the government and the KIO, to de-escalate military tensions,” the Kachin Alliance said.

Free Burma Rangers, an organisation that delivers frontline humanitarian assistance to Burma’s conflict zones, said that the artillery attack occurred on 12:15pm, November 19 at the KIA’s military academy, not far from Laiza city. FBR added that Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 390 fired the 105mm artillery shells.

“The shell impacted on the parade ground of the Woi Chyai Officer Training School when officer trainees were [on] practicing drills. Twenty trainees were instantly killed, including four instructors and three died of their wounds on the same day.” FBR said.

Those killed were not only ethnic Kachin but also Ta’ang and Arakanese, FBR added.

The attack comes as the Burma government, led by former army general and now president, U Thein Sein, undergoes ongoing peace talks with the Kachin Independent Organisation (KIO), the political leadership of the KIA. It is unclear as to what potential ramifications the deadly attack would have on the process, though the Kachin Alliance said it threatened the negotiations.

“The Burma Army, even in the midst of nationwide ceasefire talks, had been engaged in military maneuvers, encroaching upon KIO territory, taking control of frontline positions and fortifying them with heavy artillery,” the group said.

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