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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Military sends more troops and supplies to northern Kachin state


A Chinese built Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane of Burma military.

Aircraft belonging to Burma's military were recently observed unloading troops and supplies at the Putao airport in northern Kachin state, according to local residents. The arrival of reinforcements in Putao comes just weeks before government negotiators and representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) are supposed to meet early next month for peace talks.

At least two large Chinese built Shaanxi Y-8 transport planes were seen landing and unloading at Putao airport on Saturday, September 21. Large helicopters have also been seen off-loading troops and supplies at the same airport over the past week, local residents tell the Kachin News Group (KNG).

Most of the troop reinforcements and military supplies were sent south of Putao town to Nhka Ga village in Machyangbaw township, according to a well-informed local resident. The village was previously controlled by troops from the 7th Battalion of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) 1st Brigade until late August when government troops captured the area.

Nhka Ga village fell on August 29th after two days of heavy fighting. The fighting began when troops from the army's Infantry Battalion No. 137, supported by a local pro-government militia led by Ahdang Tang (or Danggu Tang), attacked KIA positions near the village. Two Burmese officers were reported killed during the battle according to KIA sources, though only the loss of one of the men was confirmed by Burmese state media.

The head of the Putao Military Strategic Command is known to be very upset about the loss of his officers and according to local residents is currently in the midst of planning a full scale attack on KIA Battalion 7 headquarters near Hting Nan village, located close to Nka Ga. All units based in Putao district, including Infantry Battalions No. 46, No. 137, No. 138 have dispatched troops to the Nhka Ga area, according to a source from the area who spoke to the Kachin News Group on condition of anonymity.

Local government officials have opened a refugee camp in Machyangbaw town to house those displaced by the fighting. A refugee camp operated by the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) has also recently opened nearby in Nawng Hkai village.

Prior to the 1994 ceasefire between the KIO and the government going into effect effect there was only one Burmese military unit (Infantry Battalion, No. 46) based in the entire Putao district. After the ceasefire was signed two infantry battalions and an artillery battalion were dispatched to the area. They are backed by various pro-government militias.

Located in a mountainous area of northern Kachin state, Putao distinct is difficult to reach all year around. During rainy season the only reliable way to get to Putao is by air as the roads are nearly impossible to use.

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