Kachin Independence Army Launches Attacks on Numerous Junta Camps

Kachin Independence Army Launches Attacks on Numerous Junta Camps

Date:

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has begun offensives to capture several camps belonging to Junta forces in Kachin state, as the KIA has increased efforts against the government security forces in the area since December 2023.

The Attacks

The forces of the KIA struck at least twelve camps that house personnel for the Tatmadaw, or Junta military forces, near Laiza, along with the Myitkyina-Bhamo Highway located on the eastern side of the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State, which is in northern Myanmar. 

Camps assaulted were the Shwe Nyaung Pin Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 321, Kunglaw camp in Momauk Township, LIB-438 in Numlang, and mountain camps Hpun Pyen Bum and Hkaya Bum, Bum Re Bum, close by the Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) headquarters. The Khaya Bum and the Bum Re Bum camps posed a significant threat to the KIO headquarters in Laiza because the town is within the range of artillery based at the camps. For example, artillery strikes against Mung Lai Hkyet village were conducted by soldiers from these camps in October 2023, resulting in twenty-nine civilians being killed. A similar attack in 2014 on a KIA camp near Laiza led to twenty-three cadets being killed.

Photo of two KIA militants. Source: Asia Times

Col Naw Bu, who leads the KIO’s information wing, said in an interview: “Our troops attacked the Burma army’s military camps along the Myitkyina to Bhamo vehicle road. Our troops attacked many camps at the same time.”

A Kachin state analyst told Kachin News Group (KNG): “The KIA has planned to attack these mountain camps for so long. So the question is ‘Why did the KIA attack these camps today?’ In my opinion, it’s related to the current fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and Burma army in Arakan State.” 

The same person later stated to KNG: “The AA is currently launching a strong offensive against the Burma army in Arakan State. The AA has attempted to capture essential towns from the Burma army, and the Burma army has used excessive force to defend those towns from the AA’s attacks. The AA is an ally of the KIA, so from a military point-of-view, the KIA is helping to break the strength of their common enemy. The KIA’s offensive attacks in Kachin State can be seen as a form of support for the AA offensives in Arakan State.”

Despite offensives halting in the Shan state due to China-brokered negotiations, fighting continued in the other states in Myanmar, including Arakan, Chin, Karenni States, and Sagaing and Magwe Regions. Kachin State is no different, with clashes in Hpakant, Myitkyina, Waingmaw, and Bhamo Townships, among other areas.

This KIA attack is said to be among the widest in recent times. KIA has reportedly captured at least ten military camps to date.

The Opposing Factions 

Photo showing soldiers from the Junta. Source: Myo Kyaw Soe / Xinhua News Agency

The KIA is the military wing of the KIO and currently stands at around 20,000 soldiers. Their motives and ideas include Kachin nationalism, territory, re-establishing the people’s rights, and ethnic tensions, similar to other active resistance groups, whom they refer to as allies. The KIA was formed in 1961 amid political turmoil and continued efforts against the Junta to gain autonomy. 

Their main armaments include various small arms, such as M16s, type 81s, and Kalashnikov series of rifles, artillery, and equipment captured by Junta troops. They are considered well-armed and well-trained, regularly recruiting fighters from Kachin areas. 

The Tatmadaw, also known as the Junta forces, is the state army of Myanmar. They are made up of land forces, an air force, a navy, a coast guard, border patrol, and a national police force. China and Russia also provided various forms of aid to the Junta’s forces such as fuel and military equipment such as two SU-30 in September 2023. Currently, the junta has around 150,000 active personnel although accurate statistics are hard to gather due to desertions and surrenders. 

Analysis 

These offensives represent the current status of the ongoing conflict in Myanmar. As time goes on, Junta forces continue to experience heavy losses of personnel, some of whom are high-ranking officials, and rapid losses of territory. Fighting in many different parts of the country has also stretched state forces thin despite the aerial and naval advantages.

Desertion is also a growing problem, with soldiers retreating to neighboring countries, such as Bangladesh, emptying the ground forces. The Junta also proves unpopular with civilians for many reasons, notably the accusations of war crimes.

As stated before, the resistance groups are also highly trained and well-equipped. Tactics such as ambushes have become a fear among Junta personnel, resulting in significant losses of equipment, men, and military camps.

Lastly, the conscription laws being stricter is a sign the military could be a sign of stagnant recruiting numbers. Last month, the state enacted a national conscription law, and the first batch of conscripts will arrive in April. This law proved to be unpopular with the local population, fueling resentment toward the government and encouraging young people to leave the country. 

Evan Berridge
Evan Berridge
Aspiring writer and analyst of mostly Indo-Pacific affairs, began in January 2024.
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