Soldiers from the Burma Army’s notorious LID 99 are now fighting Kachin forces in northern Shan State.
Government forces from a division accused of committing genocide in Rakhine State engaged in a series of clashes with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township on Monday, according to KIA sources.
The fighting occurred between Na Hkyem and Ke Leng villages in an area controlled by the KIA’s Brigade 4, with battles taking place all morning.
“There were four clashes between 6:00 a.m. and midday,” a KIA officer told KNG. He added that that the Tatmadaw came with more than 100 soldiers from Infantry Battalion 45 and Light Infantry Division (LID) 99.
LID 99 are among the Burma Army’s “shock troops” used in some of the military’s most brutal operations and are long accused of having committed war crimes throughout the country. This was was outlined in a 2018 report by Reuters linking LID 99 troops to the 2017 systematic mass killings, displacement, rapes—and what the UN has deemed genocide—of the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State.
Although based in Meiktila in central Burma, LID 99 soldiers also occupied northern Shan State as recently as late 2016, where they were accused of detaining, beating, and killing civilians in Mong Ko, as well as using the area’s residents as human shields during fighting.
Monday’s clashes follow fighting between the Burma Army and the KIA that also occurred between Lashio and Kutkai townships on March 6. The current battles are unfolding despite a unilateral ceasefire declared by the Tatmadaw on December 21 and lasting through April. The ceasefire applied to five command regions, including northern and eastern Burma.
In a meeting in Kunming, China in late February, members of the Burmese government’s Peace Commission informed the four groups in the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed organizations—of which the KIA is a member—that the government had rejected a bilateral ceasefire with them.
Forces belonging to the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) Brigade 6 continued fighting at the base of Nawng Cho mountain in Kutkai Township on Tuesday.
The clashes occurred near Dan village, the headquarters of the KIA’s Battalion No. 9 under Brigade 6. According to a KIA officer, around 200 Tatmadaw troops launched the attack.
“Clashes started at 9:00 a.m. then stopped at around 10:00 a.m. Then they shot at us again. Now it’s the third time with clashes happening in the same place,” a KIA officer from Brigade 6—who spoke to KNG on the condition of anonymity—said.
KNG was unable to confirm any reports of casualties at the time of reporting.
On Monday the Tatmadaw’s Infantry Battalion 45 and Light Infantry Division (LID) 99 fought with the KIA’s Brigade 4 around four times near Na Hkyem and Ka Leng villages, where Lashio meets Kutkai. Witnesses say that the clashes appear to be a military offensive against the KIA’s camps in northern Shan State.
KNG reported that the Meiktila-based LID 99 is a division of the Tatmadaw’s “shock troops” who have been implicated in war crimes in Shan State and the genocide of the Rohingya in Rakhine State.
The fighting on Monday and Tuesday is occurring despite the declaration of a four-month unilateral ceasefire by the Burma Army in the region in December 2018, lasting through April.