Tensions have been rising near the KIA command centre since regime forces began pouring into the area earlier this month
At least three clashes have broken out near the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stronghold of Laiza since Wednesday as Myanmar’s military continues to send troops into the area, according to a spokesperson for the ethnic armed group.
The fighting took place both north and south of Nam Sang Yang, a village on the Myitkyina-Bhamo highway about 20km north of Laiza, KIA spokesperson Col. Naw Bu told Myanmar Now.
The first incident occurred on Wednesday near the village of Jar Pu, just north of Nam Sang Yang, he said.
“A clash broke out near Jar Pu between us and a junta column coming from Myitkyina,” said Col. Naw Bu, adding that there were no confirmed casualty figures for either side.
Clashes were also reported south of Nam Sang Yang on Thursday near the villages of Dawtponeyan and Ma Dee Yan after junta forces opened fire on KIA troops, he added.
Most residents of Nam San Yang and the surrounding area have fled since fighting began on July 3.
“We still can’t return, as battles broke out near Jar Pu just yesterday. No cars are passing through on the road anymore,” said one Nam Sang Yang villager on Thursday.
Only a handful of elderly people have remained in the village, which is still under KIA control, he added.
Residents of the area were previously forced to flee their homes in 2011, after the collapse of a ceasefire between the KIA and the Myanmar military led to intense fighting between the two sides. Most did not return until 2019.
According to locals, the Myitkyina-Bhamo highway has been partially closed since the latest outbreak of hostilities began. There have also been reports that martial law has been imposed in Bhamo Township, which lies southwest of Laiza.
Local news outlets have reported that the troops pouring into Nam Sang Yang belong to Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 319, Infantry Battalion (IB) 236, and IB 237, all based in Bhamo, and LIB 438 and LIB 437, based in Momauk.
Pro-junta propaganda channels claim that four Myanmar army divisions have been launching assaults near Laiza since the fighting began.
An officer of the Myohla People’s Defence Force, based in Shwegu Township, said that more than 200 troops had recently been sent to Nam Sang Yang from Shwegu, about 180km southwest of Laiza.
At least 1,000 junta troops are believed to have arrived in Nam Sang Yang since the start of the build-up.
Fighting has also been reported in other areas, including Waingmaw and Hpakant Townships in Kachin State and Indaw Township in Sagaing Region.
On Wednesday, five junta soldiers and one civilian were killed in a clash near the jade-mining town of Kamaing in Hpakant Township, according to local sources.