Thursday, October 16, 2014

Burma army orders 1,000 from their land in Hpakant, fighting expected

Burma army's LID No. 66 soldiers in a celebration of Kachin Baptist church in Hpakant, Kachin state, northern Burma

Villagers living in Ginsi Hkaw (also Kanzi hall), Awng Ba Li (also Aung Bar Lay) and Tang Gau, three villages in Kachin state's jade rich Hpakant district, were ordered by local military authorities to leave their homes by 6 pm on Tuesday, the Kachin News Group has learned.

The evacuation order affects more than 1,000 people who are living in the three villages which are partially controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Battalion 6 and located in an area known as Ginsi. The order was issued by Col. Kyaw Zay Ya from Infantry Battalion No. 11 which is under Light Infantry Division 66.

Due to their close proximity to Hpakant's jade mines, which are the only commercial viable source for highly prized imperial jade in the world, land in the three villages has become considerably valuable.

The military also ordered KIA Battalion 6 to remove all of its posts at Awng Ba Li by the same Tuesday deadline, according to Lt-Col Nhpang Naw Bu, a senior KIA official based at the group's Laiza headquarters. The KIA rejected the army’s ultimatum, according to Lt-Col Nhpang Naw Bu. When KIA officials contacted the Burma Army’s Northern Regional Military Command based in Myitkyina for clarification the military denied that such an ultimatum had been made.

In light of the KIA's rejection of the army's order it is expected that army troops will soon make a push to take full control of these villagers from the KIA's Battalion 6. “The KIA headquarters has ordered Battalion 6 to refuse the order to remove the posts.  Fighting will break out if government forces open fire”, Naw Bu said.

According to a church official, five large trucks dispatched by the Lawng Hkang Kachin Baptist Church in Hpakant town assisted with the evacuation of more than 100 people from Awng Ba Li on Wednesday.

The church stepped in after receiving a request for assistance from the local villagers, according to pastor Sabaw. Those villagers from Awng Ba Li who evacuated are now staying at the Htoi Baptist Church in Nam Hpyit, according to the pastor. Many of the displaced are farmers, while others are jade and gold miners.  It is expected that more people will be evacuated if fighting does break out.

Most of the large scale mining in Hpakant's jade mines was halted by government order in May, 2012. On September 1st the government reversed the ban. This followed the military sending large numbers of troops to the area. LID No. 66, has soldiers from 10 battalions currently deployed in Hpakant.


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