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Myanmar army takes over rebel outposts in north Kachin

Myanmar Armed Forces attack KIA out post in Kachin State

Military official says awaiting gov’t approval to push ethnic rebels from stronghold in northern Kachin near China border

By Kyaw Ye Lynn / Anadolu Agency 

YANGON, Myanmar: A senior military official said Sunday that they are awaiting government approval to push ethnic Kachin rebels out of an area along Myanmar’s border with China after security forces took over higher ground near rebel headquarters.

During an offensive involving air support and artillery power, the military on Saturday occupied the Gidon Outpost, a strategic hill near the border town of Laiza where the Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) headquarters are situated, according to state media reports.

Both sides suffered heavy casualties during the weeklong fighting before the military took over outposts at the rebel stronghold, the reports said without providing detailed information.

The KIA, one of the most powerful rebel groups in Myanmar, has not signed any peace deals with the government since 2011 when fighting with the military broke out again in northern Kachin State.

On Sunday, a senior officer at Northern Military Headquarters told Anadolu Agency that the current situation is more conducive for government troops to take over Laiza.

“After the seizure of Gidon, it’s not that difficult for us to take over the KIA headquarters town,” he said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“But we would not do that without approval from government,” he underlined.

At least ten soldiers have been killed in the weeklong offensive on the Gidon Outpost, according to the officer.

The KIA — along with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army — has also been fighting against the military in northeastern Shan State.

The four rebel groups, known as the Northern Alliance, launched a joint-offensive last month during which their combined forces attacked military checkpoints, police stations and a trade zone near the country’s northeastern border with China.

After the military seized Mongkoe — a strategic town in the area — earlier this month, the groups called on China to mediate with Myanmar to end the fighting in Shan.

A joint statement released by the rebels Dec. 5 urged the Myanmar army to immediately stop military offensives and withdraw troops from ethnic areas across the whole country.

“As most of the fresh fighting is on the Myanmar-China border area, we want the Chinese government’s prompt mediation for an end to fighting and to bring border stability,” it said.

Since then, at least 29 people — including 15 police and 13 civilians — have died in the area, around 62 have been injured, and thousands have been displaced — some 3,000 fleeing to China to escape the fighting.

Last month, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged the groups to join a peace process, as the government prepares to hold a second meeting with armed ethnic groups next month.

Since winning the 2015 election, State Counselor Suu Kyi has made peace and national reconciliation a priority for her government — the first-elected civilian government in six decades.