Villagers in Bahmo and Momauk townships in Kachin State are frightened that more clashes will take place after Burmese government troops fired a number of mortar shells into Kachin Independence Army (KIA) territory and the KIA was put on alert, according to local residents.
Recently, small clashes between government troops and the KIA have taken place across Kachin State, escalating tension between the KIA and the Burmese army. In addition, Burmese troops have been questioning villagers living in the area.
“The government troops scold the villagers and interrogate the farmers who are working in the fields. They also question the villagers who work in town,” said a resident of Bahmo Township.
Naw Din, the editor of the Kachin News Group (KNG), told The Irrawaddy that part of the government strategy to defeat the KIA is to drive villagers away from the KIA territory to the border.
“I see these are the signals of the Burmese army, to divide the KIA and the villagers using the “four cuts” strategy. Moving villages is in fact the strategy,” said Naw Din.
The “four cuts” strategy means cutting off access to food, funds, information and recruitment, often with devastating consequences. In its fight with the Shan State Army, the Burmese army also used the “four-cuts” strategy, along with a military build-up, to drive many villagers in southern Shan State from their homes and land. As a result, many villagers from Shan State Army territory in Shan State left for the border to find safer and better places to live. The KIA attempted to negotiate with the new government, but the effort failed, said a KIA official on condition of anonymity.
“We have to fight back if they attack us. We are also ready,” he said.
“They said they should negotiate, if not the local residents will suffer with the escalating of tension. I don't know why the circumstances changed,” said Guan Sai, a member of the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP).
In 1994, the Burmese army agreed to a ceasefire with the KIA. However, tension between Naypyidaw and the KIA escalated after after the KIA refused the Burmese army order to transform into a Border Guard Force.
A Burmese army battalion commander was reportedly killed during an armed clash between government troops and the KIA on February. In addition, late last year Burma's state-run media referred to the KIA as “rebels” for the first time since the ceasefire was signed.