RANGOON — Twenty-two ethnic Kachin soldiers were killed and 15 others wounded when Burmese troops fired on a rebel base in Laiza on Wednesday, rebel officers confirmed.
La Nan, a spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is headquartered in Laiza, told The Irrawaddy by phone that “22 military academic trainees died and 15 were injured due to artillery shelling by the government [military base] at Hkayabum.”
All of the injured are currently being treated at Laiza General Hospital.
The soldiers were all under 30 years of age and were training for combat in a rebel base at Jawng Rung.
La Nan said that the fighting is still ongoing in some areas and described the Laiza encounter as an “ambush.”
“Government troops attacked with artillery. At 12:15pm, Light Infantry Battalion No. 390 attacked with 105mm [caliber ammunition]. At 12:36pm, Hkarabum Infantry No. 389 shot a 105mm into the military academy,” he said, adding that the academy is within close range of a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP).
A military official representing the northern command of the Burma Army in Myitkyina could not offer any confirmation or further details as of Wednesday afternoon.
“We need to find out what is going on on the ground. We can’t provide any detailed information at the moment,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
At least two other offensives against KIA soldiers were reported this week in Kachin and Shan states.
KIA sources said that clashes beginning on Monday left one dead in northern Shan State, while fighting that erupted in Kachin State’s Hopin Township continues after causing one casualty.
Fighting has continued in northern Burma’s Kachin State since a government offensive led to the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire in mid-2011. More than 100,000 people have been displaced by the conflict to date, many living in isolated and impoverished IDP camps.
The KIA is one of Burma’s only major ethnic armed groups that has not secured a bilateral ceasefire with the government as negotiators continue to push for a nationwide pact.
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.