Amid a standoff with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the jade-mining town of Hpakant, the Burmese army has blocked access to a village close to rebel Kachin positions, raising fears among locals about a potential clash.
Dashi Laseng, Hpakant Township chairman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), said the commander of the Burmese army’s 66th Light Infantry Division (LID) earlier gave residents of nearby Aungbarlay village a deadline of 14 October to move out.
Local community and church leaders, fearing potential clashes between government forces and KIA troops, requested that the commander order his troops to withdraw. However, on Wednesday, the 66th LID issued an order prohibiting access to and from the village and stationed more than 200 troops near a creek that runs adjacent to the village.
Government forces recently began pressuring KIA troops stationed near Hpakant’s jade mines to withdraw on the grounds that some jade mining companies had complained that Kachin troops were demanding taxes from them. However, a KIA official told DVB they have no plans to withdraw from their positions in Hpakant.
The NLD’s Dashi Lasang said blocking access to the village will lead to a shortage of basic commodities.
Aungbarlay, located approximately 15 miles from Hpakant, has around 300 households, a school, a Buddhist monastery and a church.
Kachin, tribal peoples occupying parts of northeastern Myanmar (Burma) and contiguous areas ofIndia (Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland) and China (Yunnan). The greatest number of Kachin live in Myanmar (roughly 790,000), but some 150,000 live in China and a few thousand in India. Numbering about 1012,000 in the late 20th century, they speak a variety of languages of the Tibeto-Burman group and are thereby distinguished as Jinghpaw, or Jingpo (Chingpaw [Ching-p’o], Singhpo), Atsi, Maru (Longvo), Lachid, Nung (Rawang), and Lisu .
The traditional Kachin religion is a form of animistic ancestor cult entailing animalsacrifice. As a result of the arrival of American and European missionaries in Burma beginning in the late 19th century, a majority of the Kachin are Christian, mainly Baptist and Roman Catholic. Among the Kachin in India, Buddhism predominates.