04/22/2010, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Following a number of attacks, tensions rise between the Myanmar army and Kachin militias

In the northern state of Kachin, Myanmar’s military junta has strengthened its presence. Its ultimatum for the Kachin Independence Army to join the border guards expires on 28 April. Otherwise, the militia will be outlawed. Attacks against the Myitsone dam construction site have raised tensions. Sources tell AsiaNews that people “are waiting to see who will fire first”.
Myitkyina (AsiaNews) – The winds of war are picking up in Myanmar’s Kachin state, on the border of China. The series of blasts that hit the Myitsone dam construction site and the ultimatum set by Myanmar’s military junta against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to join the Border Guard Force (BGF) have raised tensions further. Local sources tell AsiaNews that people are “waiting to see who will fire the first shot”.

Myanmar’s military rulers said that they are ready to outlaw the KIA if the militia’s leaders refuse to join the BGF. The deadline for merger is 28 April.

Meanwhile in the state capital of Myitkyina, 100 Myanmar army trucks were seen near to the KIA’s headquarters, getting ready in case of conflict.

The KIA has refused to join the BGF unless its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), is given a clear role in Myanmar politics. The KIO wants this before this year’s parliamentary elections are held.

Sources told AsiaNews, “tensions are running high” in the affected region. The military appear ready to “outlaw the KIA if it does not join the border guards by 28 April.” Confrontation between the sides is “likely” with people just “waiting to see who will fire the first shot.”

In Myitkyina, residents are in favour “of the KIO, the Kachin Independence Organisation”, but the latter “lacks a strong structure” to “face the Burmese military junta.”

A series of explosions that shook the Myitsone dam construction side last Saturday raised the alarm level even further.

A number of bombs exploded in rapid succession at the Asia World company office in Long Ga Zuap village, 10 kilometres south of the construction site. More bombs went off in neighbouring villages. According to unconfirmed reports, seven people, all Chinese, were killed in the attacks.

The dam is a joint project between Myanmar’s Industry Ministry, Asia World and the China Power Investment Corporation, one of the mainland’s largest state-run power producers.

Once it is completed, the dam is expected to generate 3,600 megawatts of electricity to be sold to China’s Yunnan province.

The project has led to the forced relocation of up to 15,000 residents from at least 60 villages upstream of the site.

Local sources complain that the project has caused “the destruction of a grotto with the statue of the Virgin Mary.” Kachin state has a large Christian community and many locals were “quite devoted to the holy image”.

The military junta has blamed the KIO for the attacks. The nationalist movement has denied any involvement. It did acknowledge that it is opposed to project but blamed the junta for the violence. With tensions running so high, locals expect that any incident might lead to open warfare.  

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