Battle for Laiza “the most expensive campaign in history”

The Burma Army’s ongoing campaign apparently to capture the Kachin rebels’ capital Laiza could well be “the most expensive campaign in history,” according to Aung Kyaw Zaw, military analyst on the Sino-Burmese border.

From 24 December to 7 January, government forces have staged 119 airstrikes plus thousands of 105 mm howitzer and 120 mm mortar shells, he told SHAN. “The resources that they have pooled in for this particular battle far surpasses those for Hsihsinwan battle against the Communist Party of Burma,” he said. “All in all, it can be considered the most expensive battle in (Burmese) history.”

According to Maj Min Htay, a leader of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) fighting alongside the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) against the Burma Army’s offensive, there was a 3 day pause of air support to its ground troops between 4-6 January, following a warning from Beijing, reported Mizzima News. But on the next day, the air attacks resumed.

Beijing’s warning came 5 days after bombs from the Burma Air Force landed on Chinese soil. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, while conceding that it was Burma’s “internal affairs”, also urged “peaceful negotiations” to deal with the Kachin problem.

Earlier, Aung Kyaw Zaw, commenting on the escalation of the fighting, said the reason for it was that the Burma Army wanted to hold new negotiations from a superior position.

It was also meant to serve as a warning to other armed movements, both ceasefire and non-ceasefire, according to a Thai observer.

The Hsihsinwan battle was fought for 3 weeks, 16 November-7 December 1986, in Shan State’s Muse township. Stormed by thousands of troops supported by heavy artillery and aircraft, the CPB was forced to evacuate the mountain stronghold. “The price it (the government) had to pay for the victory was enormous,” reported Bertil Lintner in The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) (1990). “Government losses were estimated at least 1,000 dead and wounded.

Since 24 December, government forces have suffered at least 500 casualties, 200 dead and 300 wounded, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw.


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