Protectors of the Drug Dealers or National Causes?

Several questions and concerns have been raised about Burmese army’s involvement in drug trade and protection of drug dealers after KIA’s 6th Battalion headquarters was overrun last week. Kachinland News has learned the latest incident between KIA and Burmese army in Hpakant Township.

The incident began with the arrest of 7 people, some are members of Burmese army-backed Shanni Pyithutsits (Red Shan militia), in Nam Ya- Ka Maing- Lawa area. KIA’s 6th Battalion troops arrested U Tin Shwe (37) and U Soe Mun (43), both ethnic Red Shans (Tai Lai) and members of Shanni Pyithutsits, on charges of drug possession and sale during an anti-drug operation on April 29. The two men were arrested together with drugs and drug-making equipment. U Soe Tun, Daw Aye Khin, U Tin Shwe and two others were also detained for possession and sale of drugs. According to KIA’s 6th Battalion officers, those arrested had been warned several times not to continue in the drug business in the past months.

Burmese army’s Northern Regional Commander Nyi Nyi Swe, through Tang Gau village elder Ah Jung and Sabaw village village elder U Myo Swe, asked KIO’s Hpakant County Committee to release the two men, U Tin Shwe and U Soe Mun. General Staff Officer of Northern Regional Command (NRC) also asked KIO to release those detained on charges associated with drug sales in Nam Ya- Ka Maing- Lawa area on April 29.

KIA’s 6th Battalion officers, who did not want the conflict to escalate further, agreed to Burmese army’s demand and released those detained on May 2, 2016.

According to the permissions and instructions of NRC’s General Staff Officer and Kachin State’s police chief, Peace-talks Creation Group (PCG), a group that mediates between KIO and Burmese Army, asked Kachin anti-drug Pat Jasan members to bring 7 people detained by the KIA troops from Sabaw Maw to Ka Maing police station on May 2.

On the way to Kamaing police station, Pat Jasan members were stopped by Shanni Pyithutsits. Militia members said U Soe Tun and Daw Aye Khin are brother-in-law and sister of militia leader U Myo Myint Tun, and asked Pat Jasan members to transfer the detainee to them. Despite repeated attempts by Pat Jasan members to hand detainees over to the Kamaing police, deputy secretary of local Shanni Association and Shanni Pyithutsits leader insisted for transferring detainees. One Pat Jasan member was hit by militia members with the butt of a gun.

Shanni Pyithutsits

Despite the fact that those detained by KIA troops were released, Burmese army had launched attacks on KIA’s 6th Battalion positions beginning May 5.

About 100 Burmese army troops under Hpegon-based 7th Military Operations Command (MOC-7) together with Shanni Pyithutsits launched an attack on a KIA’s 6th Battalion position at Hka Shin Maw on May 5 at 2:13 pm.

On May 7, about 200 Burmese army troops from 102nd Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) and 427th Light Infantry Regiment (LIR) attacked KIA’s 6th Battalion position at Naw Lang Dabang in Lunghkang area at around 10 am. A combined force of Burmese army’s 102nd LIB, 427th LIR and Shanni Pyithutsits again attacked KIA’s 6th Battalion positions at Mai Sa Hka and Awng Len Cemetery in Naw Lang Dabang on May 8 at 6 am. KIA troops had to abandon two frontline posts, Awng Len post and Naw La post, after raging 4 battles with Burmese army at around 5:30 pm on May 8.

The battles at Naw Lang Dabang and Awng Len resumed the following day and Burmese army entered Awng Len village on May 9 at around 10 pm. The battles continued to rage as more Burmese army reinforcement from Sawng Hka arrived at Nam Sheng and Laika Galai on May 10. Burmese army then launched attacks on KIA’s 6th Battalion headquarters entering from Awng Len village and Sabaw Maw.

Finally, KIA’s 6th Battalion headquarters was overrun by a combined force of Burmese army’s 102nd LIB, 427th LIB, 423rd LIR, 426th LIR and Shanni Pyithutsits on May 10 at around 12 pm.

A definite answer as to whether the arrest of 7 people on charges of drug dealing is the reason for the war or it serves as the pretext for launching attacks on KIA’s 6th Battalion headquarters, which operates in Jade-rich Hpakant area, remains elusive and can only be given by the Burmese army.