Friday, December 14, 2012

Naypyitaw deploys helicopter gunships against KIO

Friday, 14 December 2012 15:41 Phanida

After assurances given by chief negotiator Aung Min that the government would resume peace talks with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Burmese army launched on Friday morning yet another ground assault against Kachin positions near Laiza, the KIO headquarters, with ground troops supported by helicopter gunships, according to KIO spokesman La Nan.

This picture taken on May 12, 2012, shows a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) soldier looking through binoculars at positions of the Burmese army from an outpost some 12 kilometers south of Laiza, a KIA-controlled stronghold in northern Kachin State on the border with China. Photo: AFP

KIO forces have been engaging government troops from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 383, 388 and Infantry Battalion (IB) 40 near Lajayan village, Dawphoneyan sub-township, La Nan told Mizzima by telephone.

“A fierce battle has been waged since 6 o’clock this morning and is still continuing,” he said. “They sent in two MI-24 helicopter gunships which fired at us. This is the first time helicopter gunships have attacked us so close to Laiza.”

He said that the Burmese army also attacked KIO positions using 105mm howitzers and 120mm mortars.

“They are launching a ground assault and at the same time the helicopter gunships are providing supporting fire,” said La Nan.

He said that, so far, he had received no reports of casualties on either side.

A source in Laiza said that the residents and war refugees in the town were very worried after seeing and hearing the heavy bombardments on Friday morning.

A total of 74 engagements and clashes have occurred between the sides from December 1 to 13, the KIO spokesman said.

President Thein Sein ordered his armed forces to cease operations against the KIO on December 10, 2011, when he issued an order through then Commander-in- Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. However, no less than 1,360 skirmishes or battles have been fought in northern Burma since then, the KIO say.

The Burmese army has not yet deployed reinforcements into the area near Laiza, La Nan said, but after seeing the use of helicopter gunships on Friday morning, the KIO believe a “massive deployment” is highly possible.

Meanwhile, the Union Level Peace-making Work Committee, the official name for the government’s negotiating team, has reportedly extended an offer for another round of peace talks with the KIO.

“We still extend our offer to meet again with the KIO. Minister Aung Min sent an official proposal to them. We are awaiting their reply,” peace broker Hla Maung Shwe told Mizzima.

La Nan said that even if the government extended an official invitation to peace negotiations, it would now be difficult for the Kachins to accept the government’s offer at such a time when fierce battles were being waged using helicopter gunships.

“We cannot consider their offer amid such fierce hostilities,” he told Mizzima.

President’s Office Minister Aung Min assured the KIO that a further meeting between the sides would take place within a month at their last round of talks on October 30.
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