Myanmar rebels attack jade mining town

18
Yangon

Forces of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the ethnic factions opposed to Myanmar’s coup, attacked military positions at the northwestern jade mining town of Hkamti on Sunday, local media reported.

The attack marks an advance into new territory by the KIA at a time Myanmar has been plunged into chaos since the army seized power on Feb 1, detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and cut short a decade of democratic reforms.

KIA fighters attacked an army post at Hkamti township in the Sagaing region early on Saturday, the Irrawaddy and Mizzima online publications said. Pictures showed columns of dark smoke rising from what they said was the scene of the attack.

KIA spokesman Naw Bu said he was aware of the attack but could give no details. “The fighting is still ongoing. I can still hear the gunshots,” Mizzima quoted one resident as saying.

It said the site attacked was near a mining venture that involves the military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd. conglomerate.

Since the coup, open conflict resumed between the army and the KIA, which has been fighting for greater autonomy for the Kachin people for some six decades and has voiced support for anti-junta protesters.

Mizzima said the army was using jets in attacks on the KIA at Hkamti, a town on the Chindwin river in a remote region rich in jade and gold that lies about 50 km (30 miles) from the border with India.

The army has carried out numerous bombing attacks on KIA positions in recent weeks and has also clashed with ethnic armies in the east and west of Myanmar.

On Friday, local media quoted an official of the new electoral commission appointed by the junta as saying there was a plan to dissolve the NLD.

Myanmar’s junta chief has said deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health and will appear in court within days during the general’s first television interview since the coup.

Min Aung Hlaing, who toppled Suu Kyi in a Feb 1 putsch, gave a two-hour interview to Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television on Thursday, with the full programme yet to air.

“Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health. She’s been staying at home and will appear in court in a few days,” he said in an excerpt released on social media on Saturday.

The general was speaking in Burmese and his comments were translated into Chinese by the network.

Asked about Suu Kyi’s political achievements, the military leader said:
“In short, she has done everything she can.” Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since she was placed under house arrest.

She has been hit with a string of criminal charges including flouting coronavirus restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies.

The most serious charge alleges that she violated the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act. Suu Kyi is expected to appear in person in court on Monday for the first time, after weeks of delays to her legal case.

Her legal team have faced an uphill battle to meet with their client in private.—Reuters