Intense fighting erupted in Sumpra Bum area, northernmost Myanmar, near the Chinese border on the morning of 18 July. Fierce clashes between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) soldiers and Tatmadaw troops (Myanmar Government forces) in several parts of the Kachin state in northern Myanmar continue to plague lives of the civilians. The government forces launched heavy ground offensive at several points against the KIA outposts, driving civilians to flee villages, and trapping more than hundreds of school children at more than one locations, a source on the ground close to KIA reported.
Quoting Gen Tan Seng, a KIA officer, operating in the area, the source said that government forces had moved troops by two helicopters earlier in the morning before the massive offensive was launched at about 10 a.m. Life came to a standstill atleast in five villages of the area as the skirmishes went on, though no casualty had been reported. In Ja Ra Yang village, 64 kids along with 4 teachers in the village pre-school were trapped amid heavy artillery shelling, while the 26 families of Hpung Ing Yang village were taking shelter in forests. In Mali Yang village school 271 students, 24 teachers and 183 civilians were took shelter to escape damage. Other villages where the civilians were stranded amid violence were: Ntam Zup Village with 70 families, and Sama Bum with 2 families, confirmed the source.
Earlier last week, another confrontation ensued, when government forces on 14 July advanced towards a KIA hold at Loi Seng village near Ka Maing township in Hpakant area, killing three soldiers from the government forces and leaving more than ten wounded.
The clashes broke out as a result of Tatmadaw’s continuing war effort against the ethnic Kachin rebels since the ceasefire collapsed in 2011.
At this juncture, as the country is nearing its national polls, avoiding skirmishes and reaching an inclusive and effective National Ceasefire Agreement, should have been the priority of the government. Instead, exhibiting a stark paradoxical narrative to the government’s professed commitment to peace; war efforts in Kachin state have been intensified of late, recent reports suggest.
However, this might be a tactic adopted by the government to pressurize the Kachin ethnic armed group to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) without further delay and without having to concede to the changes demanded in the draft NCA signed by Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC), considering the electoral calculations involved in it.
Nay Pyi Taw’s policy to drive tandem- on the one hand, professing peace in words and emphasizing the ongoing peace process, and on the other, pursuing major military efforts on the ground- will in all probability further escalate tensions leading to suspension of polls in several parts of the state. It would bar maximum voter participation and render the upcoming elections not fully representative of popular will. Finally it’s worth noting that polls, if cancelled, in war-torn ethnic minority areas, could indirectly help the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) as these areas would, otherwise strongly mandate against the party.