Members of the news media who visited Kachin State met with the head of Northern Command Maj-Gen Teza Kyaw on 11 May and enquired about the reason for conducting military operations in Kachin State, the view of the Tatmadaw and the status of assisting villagers temporarily displaced from their homes.
“We conducted military operations in the region. The aim was to control the region. The KIA (Kachin Independence Army) was conducting sneak attacks on our forces doing administrative works in Tanai region resulting in some casualties on our side. That is why we conducted the military operation to clear the area. In addition to this, they entered the Kasont side and the Namti, Mogaung, Mohnyin areas and collected extortion money. They abducted people. In fact all the fighting was started by the KIA. We responded by clearing the area. When conducting the clearance operation, there was news about civilians being wounded. A villager from Awng Lawt was reported to be killed. In fact, that villager was in KIA Brigade 2 camp. I think the answer is quite clear whether a person killed is a villager or from the armed group if that person is staying together with the armed group in KIA Brigade 2 camp.”
The commander said the Tatmadaw had evidence that the KIA had contact with some religious organisations and, in the future, action will be taken in accordance with the law.
“We saw that some villagers were intimidated in the presence of some religious groups. News media people know that there were no damages in Awng Lawt. Nothing was destroyed. When there is fighting, we don’t shoot into the village. We only shoot, even than with some constraint, toward the enemy position. Roman Catholic monks from Tanai came and cooperated to resettle the villagers in Tanai. But when it’s another religious group, the villagers do not go. State government sent a group to check if the villagers can stay in Tanai. But on their way, they were shot at. The other side denied that they shot at the group. The aim of the KIA is to create displaced persons and make accusations of human rights violations,” added the commander.
Responding to whether there were air-attacks and how many, the commander said, “The principle of fighting a battle is not to fight lightly, but with overwhelming force. Only then can there be the least damage and losses to our men and material. In any air-attacks, we make sure where our side is, where they are and where the villagers are. We directly attack the enemy position. We avoid the villages. If we are not sure if it is the enemy or villagers, we don’t attack or shoot. We don’t assume the enemy position. We attack only when we are sure.”
The commander added, “You, media delegation was in Awng Lawt. In fact, Awng Lawt was not under the control of the state government. The village had a KIA court and education office. Our aim is to have stability and peace in the country and have rule of law. Areas should be under the control of the government. On the way to Awng Lawt, you will have seen Nyaung Yan camp. We attacked that place. Anyone staying near KIA battalion headquarters must be relatives or related, but we don’t attack them. The houses remain undamaged. But they took away the people.
“We said that we will help and allow them to stay. The village is not damaged. But they didn’t come. But those who were not among such people came back. About 200 had come back.
We said we are making this place stable and peaceful. We will ensure rule of law in Kachin State. If anything is acting against this, we’ll remove it. KIA needs to return to the NCA path. If not, they’ll be considered as rebels conducting armed rebellion and we will remove them.
Whenever they face difficulties, they attack the cities. An example would be the bombing in Lashio. We will prevent such incident from occurring.
If the displaced people are not related or connected to KIA, we will not do anything. If they are reporting to KIA or KIA is hiding as villagers, we will expose and take action. Soldiers, civilians, and religious persons need to abide by the law. If not, action will be taken against them. Tatmadaw also have to abide by the law. Tatmadaw abides by the law enacted by the government as well as the military law. We (Tatmadaw) could not break any.
Trapped persons are peoples abducted or forced by the KIA or are their people. Ordinary villagers live peacefully in their own places. If they could not, they stay in temporary place. And once they can, they return to their own places,” said Maj-Gen Teza Kyaw.
By Ye Kaung Nyunt