The military and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have clashed at gold mines in Hpakant on August 10 and 11, sources from both sides say.
Colonel Tan Sant, commander of the No.6 Regiment from the KIA, said: “Both sides clashed at Aung Lin Shwe Maw village. The fighting continued on August 11. Five army regiments and the KIA No.26 are fighting. It is about 10 miles from Shadusut. Villagers have fled. The army has used 120mm shells. We don’t know the conditions on the ground but the army said they had entered the area to prevent illegal gold digging by the Chinese. The Chinese have to pass many army and police checkpoints to reach there. There are no Chinese there. Most people there are making a poor living and I don’t know how many are left."
A senior operations officer from the Northern Command confirmed the fighting but said there were no details.
Sources say the army was trying to clear illegal gold digging in the area during July and August when it encountered KIA forces. Thousands of people have reportedly fled the area. Government, political parties and social organisations have been helping them. More than 1,000 refugees are currently taking shelter at monasteries and churches in Shadusut village.
The Myawady newspaper reported that eight Chinese citizens were arrested along with 17 backhoes, three 22-wheeled lorries, three ten-wheeled trucks, three six-wheeled vehicles and 13 devices used to find gold.