source from Irrawaddy news, 30 Dec 2011
Burmese government troops took over a major military base belonging to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Brigade 4 on Wednesday, although hostilities in the area continue, according to KIA sources.
The base—located in Mong Tong Township in northern Shan State—is considered strategic at it lies in the path of the trans-Burma oil and gas pipeline.
La Nan, a spokesman for the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the government troops had finally overrun the base despite losing many men in fierce fighting.
La Nan said that, according to a KIA frontline report, about 80 Burmese soldiers had been killed or were wounded. However, despite its frontline casualties the government battalions were able to reinforce and attack the Kachin base with mortars and rocket launchers until KIA troops were forced to retreat.
“The government has being pushing hard to win this base because it is located on the route where the oil and gas pipelines will pass. I think it is vitally important to them,” said La Nan.
The Kachin spokesman claimed that only two KIA soldiers were seriously injured during the battle. KIA troops remain dug in at several major bases nearby and plan to retake the Mong Tong base, he said.
“The fighting will continue,” he said. “We can and will revert to guerrilla warfare tactics.”
In spite of the ongoing hostilities, the KIO said it will meet as planned with a government delegation to continue peace talks. The Kachin rebels say they have selected representatives to attend negotiations; however, no date has yet been fixed for talks, said La Nan.
Hostilities between the Burmese government troops and the KIA broke out in June after a series of incidents and rising tensions in the region. The conflict has since forced more than 45,000 civilians to be displaced.