Michael's Dispatches

Burma at War


photo-1000FBR relief team members learning how to put an IV in.

kachin6-1000Kachin Independence Army (KIA)

Many minority groups fight in Myanmar (Burma).  Despite that the groups have a common enemy in the Burmese government, the minority groups cannot seem to bind together in a larger cooperation.  Some people believe that if major groups like the Karen, Kachin, Wa, Shan and Mon, were able to cooperate, they could defeat the Burmese government and win their long-ago promised freedom.


Despite media reports of improving conditions, ground reports tell of unabated fighting and ongoing displacement in Kachin State.


The following is an FBR update:

While ceasefire negotiations are taking place in some ethnic areas, attacks continue in Kachin State, Northern Burma. The Burma Army is pressing its attacks in Kachin State with over 100 battalions deployed. There are over 50,000 Kachin people displaced, over 60 Kachin civilians killed, and 100 Kachin soldiers killed.  Burma Army casualties are unknown, but estimated at 1,000 wounded and killed.

Along with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), WPN, Partners and other organizations, the Kachin FBR teams are helping those in need.

Internally Displaced People (IDPs)

There are currently 50,998 displaced people living in 45 temporary camps in the Kachin area. The IDP and Refugee Relief Committee (IRRC) is the branch of the KIO that manages these IDP camps.  They estimate a further 10,000 people are displaced but not in camps – these are either hiding in the forests, staying with family and friends or privately cared for by churches.  There are also displaced people in cities such as Myitkyina and in other Burma Army-controlled areas.  Most people in conflict areas have already fled, but new displaced people continue to come to the camps; there have been at least 3,000 new IDPs in the month of May.  Most of these have been in the Panwa and Hkagaran Yang areas, in which the fighting has recently spread.  In areas all around Kachin State many people remain in the forests, unable to reach the camps either due to the Burma Army or natural barriers such as the Irrawaddy River.

IRRC is responsible for running the camps and most of the funding to support the IDPs continues to come from the KIO.  Additional funding and support has come from church organizations, businessmen, cultural organizations, the United Nations, the World Food Programme and other organizations.  The Catholic charity Caritas is wholly supporting six of the camps.  Over 12 tons of rice per day are required to feed people in all the camps.  IRRC has been able to provide rice for all the camps on a day-to-day basis, without any reserve.  There has been a shortage of other foods such as vegetables, oils or proteins, causing a nutritional problem.  In order to provide enough rice, the IRRC has incurred debts of $US158,000.  It costs over $US31,600 per day to feed everyone in the camps, or $US948,000 per month; approximately $US0.70 per person per day.  This is only the cost of food and does not include costs for shelter, clothing, health care and education.

Breakdown of locations of displaced persons:

Burma-at-War-10-1000*This table uses KIO administrative divisions. Kachin Independence Army (KIA) brigade areas parallel the administrative divisions, and are shown in parentheses.

Burma Army Activity

The Burma Army is focused on extending control over all Kachin State and protecting development projects. There seem to be three parts to Burma Army strategy: 1) Control supply lines, 2) Cut off access between 5th Brigade (including the KIO headquarters at Laiza) and 3rd brigade to the south at Dungbung, 3) cut off access between the Laiza area and the Laisen area to the north – thereby isolating Laiza and Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIA) headquarters.

The Burma Army is concentrating on resupplying their camps and pushing troops and material forward. This is across a broad front focused on resupplying camps and 1) the pipeline route in the KIA 4thBrigade area in the northern Shan State--Kachin State border area ,  2) jade mines in 2nd Brigade -- west of Mogaung,  3) all supply lines and 4) the border towns of Laiza and Mai Ja Yang. There is also fighting along the Bhamo – Myitkyina road as the Burma Army tries to control this major route.


There are over Burma Army 100 battalions now in Kachin State – we estimate up to 120 battalions which in the understrength Burma Army system is around 8,000 troops.  This comprises Northern Command with 39 garrison battalions including troops from Northeastern Command in the KIA 4th Brigade area, Military Operation Command (MOC) 1, MOC 3, MOC 16, MOC 21, Light Infantry Division (LID) 33, LID 77, LID 88, LID 99.

In all these areas there are now few casualties as most villagers have fled and the KIA is ambushing and moving – no large scale fixed battles. The Burma Army has major resupply and reinforcement problems and the offensive seems very much slowed.

Tactics: the Burma Army moves along roads, mortars villages, attacks villages to deny use of village to villagers and to deny support for the KIO.  The Burma Army is using 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortars as well as 105mm howitzers.  There is some use of landmines in villages the Burma Army passes though.

The KIA ambushes Burma Army columns and resupply routes.  This has caused casualties and slowed the resupply and reinforcement of forward areas by the Burma Army.

Recent fighting between 13- 21 May 2012:

  1. Nam Sam Yang area, 5th Brigade: Burma Army shelling villages, KIA counterattack and hold Burma Army off.
  2. Sumprabum area, 1st Brigade: Attacks supported by helicopter firing rockets and machine guns.
  3. Panwa area in 1st Brigade: Burma Army attacks continue.
  4. Man Mau Village, Nalung area, 5th Brigade (north of Laiza and Nam Sam Yang along Nam Sang River – mortars heard from this attack at 10pm on 16 May.)
  5. 4th Brigade area along Shwe Gas Pipeline route -- small scale attacks.
  6. 3rd Brigade area -- small scale fighting as Burma army resupplies and reinforces.

Hydropower and other development projects

Northern Kachin State:  Following Thein Sein’s order that Myitsone Dam construction be halted, there has not been further work on the dam.  Gold mining by a Chinese company continues in areas that would be flooded by the dam.  Myitsone is at the confluence of the Mali River, which comes from the North, and the Mai River which comes from the Northeast.  Flowing south from the confluence is the Irrawaddy.  Upstream from Myitsone along the Mali there is one dam planned, and upstream along the Mai there are six planned.  One dam has already been built on the Chihpwi River, which is a tributary of the Mai following in from the east, and the power from it flows to Myitsone and to Myitkyina.

Central Kachin State: There are 2 dams under construction by the China Datang Corporation along the Taping River between on border of 3rd and 5th Brigades near Sangang.  Fighting first started here on 9 June 2011 because the Burma Army wanted to remove a nearby KIA post.  The Burma Army now controls the dam site area but construction has been halted as all the workers have been evacuated to China.  The border is about 5km away.  A dirt road off the Bhamo-Myitkyina road is supplying dam site.

Northern Shan State:  The Shwe Gas Pipeline is planned to run through Kyawk Me, Ti Paw, Nam Tu (west of Lashio), and Nam Kham (on Shweli River at border, west of Muse) where it then passes into China at Ruili.  They are building different isolated sections, not always connected.  Currently the Burma Army and KIA are fighting north of Nam Tu over control of the pipeline route.  Six battalions from Burma Army MOC 1 are near areas under KIA control.

Transport & Supply Routes

The main Burma Army supply lines are the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Bhamo and the rail line and road lines from Mandalay to Myitkyina.  In mid-April the rail line was disrupted by the KIA’s 2ndBrigade, 5th Battalion, between Namsi Awng and Mawhun (near Maw Lu) just north of the Kachin State-Sagaing Division border.  It has since been repaired.  From Myitkyina and Bhamo, resupplies continue on roads (where not blocked by KIA ambushes), by boat over rivers, on foot and mule, and at times by helicopter.

Bhamo-Myitkyina road:  Burma Army controls the road running north from Bhamo to Dohpum Yang.  North from Dohpum Yang to Nalung there is no clear control as the Burma Army and KIA battle over this area.  The KIA controls the road from Nalung north to Nam Sam Yang (this stretch of road includes the fork that goes to Laiza).  North of Nam Sam Yang to Myitkyina is Burma Army controlled.  Because of KIA control near Laiza, the Burma Army cannot drive between Bhamo and Myitkyina.  They can resupply their camps using rivers such as the Munglai River off the Irrawaddy, but it is difficult now in the hot season as the rivers are too low in places for boat traffic.  There are supply shortages at the frontline Burma Army camps.

The Burma Army camps at Dohpum Yang and Gangdau (the frontline camps to the south and north of the section of the road controlled by the KIA) each have two 105mm howitzers.  Artillery fire from Dohpum Yang is heard every day here with the Burma Army firing 105s on La Jai Yang and Nam Sang Yang.  LIB 142 is at Dohpum Yang.

The Burma Army controls territory in 5th Brigade west of the Bhamo-Myitkyina road.

The road from Myitkyina to Putao was controlled by the Burma Army, but recently the KIA attacked in the Hkagaran Yang area and now controls road there. The Burma Army cannot get through and must fly supplies to Putao instead of drive.

The Kanpaiti road from China to Myitkyina is blocked by the KIA between Sadung and Lahpai.

The main crossing areas into China are at Ruili and Muse.

In 5th and 3rd brigade, the KIA controls the border.

KIA conducts ambushes along the Lashio-Muse road.  In this area, the KIA is conducting joint operations with troops from the Palaung State Liberation Front and Shan State Army-North.

Border Guard Force (BGF) area, east of 1st Brigade:  Fighting on April 27 and 28 occurred between Border Posts 6 and 7 north of Panwa.  Also there is continued fighting east of Washa.  The Border Guard Force (ethnic proxy army of the Burma Army) has 3 battalions, total 600 men.  The BGF controls Panwa, where there is a border crossing.  This BGF unit was previously the National Democratic Army-Kachin, which converted to a BGF in 2009.

MOCs 3 and 21 are normally assigned to Northern Command.  MOCs 1 and 16 are normally assigned to Northeastern Command in Shan State.  LIDs 88 and 99 are known to have come to the area.  Others are coming but some have been reported to have removed their unit patches as they join and reinforce units in Kachin state.   (LIDs 33 and 77 have been previously reported as being present.)


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    karen · 9 years ago
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Leyla Najma · 9 years ago
      Thank you Michael for keeping us posted on everything. And Karen...if you don't want to read Michael's posts...then go away and don't bother. The rest of us do care and we appreciate Michael's efforts and dedication to topics of interest.

      My best to everyone on this Memorial Day !

  • This commment is unpublished.
    BH · 9 years ago
    Hello - you may want to also contact Worldwide Impact Now - also doing much in the area and have been for many years - compliments Dave's work but goes a bit further - Tim Heineman is the CEO - former SOF guy and a great humanitarian firmly behind the Karen
  • This commment is unpublished.
    YIZ · 9 years ago
    At least Rambo was able to kick some major ass there...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    sinanju · 9 years ago
    Man! This has been going on since before I was born, and I'm no kid anymore. It's been years and years since I read anything by anyone who'd actually been there-done-that (SOF magazine is the only one I can think of). It's truly unfortunate that these guys have never been able to team up in almost fifty years of fighting but I guess it's that ancient tribal thang.

    Real change may be happening in Rangoon at least and "The Lady" is no longer under house arrest but it looks like anything resembling freedom is a long ways away for this country. It seems rather obvious whose side China is on.

    Dave Eubank sounds like quite a guy but as his FBR outfit crosses the line from humanitarian to military assistance I'm amazed that the Thais or our government hasn't simply shut him down. Look for Obama to give an order from on high to that effect. He's gonna be wanting a foreign policy breakthrough to take our minds of the suppurating Middle East. If he and Hillary can't make the Burmese into angels before November he can certainly pretend to welcome them into the company of civilized nations...

    Mike, can you make any recommendations for background reading? As far as I know, no one has ever written an honest-to-gosh book on this.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Andrew Vanderplaats · 9 years ago
    The Karen have been fighting the Generals in Rangoon since right after WW II. Back then the the US helped Nationalist Chinese Army forces, who moved into the Northern Burma region after almost being wiped out by the Communist forces. Twice the Burmese went to the UN, to complain about US
    interference in their affairs. Old
    OSS hands, like Jim Thompson may have also had a hand in what went on back then, but that was a long, long time ago. Documents in National Archives,
    and State Dept. are still classified
    because of CIA.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      sinanju · 9 years ago
      I did read about the tribes participation in WWII working with the Allies (Stilwell, Slim, Wingate, OSS, Chindits, Merrill's Marauders, etc.) against the Japanese as a kid. I knew they had wanted their autonomy right away upon independence in 1948 but I was never quite sure of the state of things during the Union of Burma period but I did know hostilities really got going after the 1962 military coup by Ne Win and his gang.

      What I've managed to glean of the current situation is confusing but it appears the military thugs are taking a gamble by making a show of democratic reforms with their personal Union Solidarity and Democratic Party firmly in control. They've released several hundred of their more prominent political prisoners and allowed a tightly controlled election with a stab at other partial economic reforms and human rights concessions.

      My best guess is the generals have decided they stand to make a lot more money a lot more easily running a "Chinese" system with Potemkin reforms and a "mixed" economy rather than just trafficking in drugs, gems, timber and sex slaves. My guess is they've taken the measure of Obama and the international Human Rights, business community and UN grandees and figured that they'll all happily go along with a business-friendly despotism with the khaki-crowd still in control behind the curtain. I'm sure the brass hats are anticipating full diplomatic relations with a lifting of sanctions and an explosion of tourism and business contracts.

      I'm betting that the remote tribal areas, however, are likely to remain their personal poaching preserve where they continue to run their iron-fisted rackets out of sight of the rest of the world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pat · 9 years ago
    Sounds like the China, Burma, India theater of WW2 all over again and across the same terrain. An intertesting mix of weapons from an M-1 carbine, early M-16, and a German G- ? to say the least.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      sinanju · 9 years ago
      Yup. Although the rest of the World hasn't really given a damn about this long-running conflict. For years I've wondered what could be if we simply helped to officially arm and train them. I mean, compared to invading Iraq and Afghanistan or even bombing Libya that would hardly be sticking our necks out. Keep in mind these people have been accused of running their own smuggling rackets to fund themselves but compared to the muzzies any other culture looks good.

      The carbine and the M-16A2 must be relics of yesteryear. The G- s are probably pretty old as well. Perhaps the AK-clones are of local manufacture? I wonder what the official rifle of the Burmese Army is?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 9 years ago
    We need UTube like they did with Kony. Then Obama scores another political victory with the assist from the Green Berets. Obama can ship them to Burma. We can spent the taxpayers money on another Hot Spot in the world and train our Spec.Ops guys at the same time scoring another victory for the Team Obama. Let's see SEAL's, Green Berets. Who's up next Force Recon or Para Rescue(Air Commandos)?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    andy Vanderplaats · 9 years ago
    While these tribes may be distinct from those over in Laos and northern Thailand, they're also involved with the growing of opium. Nationalist Chinese forces still inhabit the region as well as provide both security a well as a market for the the tribe's crops. These in turn are shipped out for processing or converted right there, as they were when the US was running their covert operations in Laos during the Vietnam War. Funny how so few people today remember what happened such a short time ago. I shudder to think what they'll remember in another 25 years or so.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Celia · 5 years ago
    Howdy would you mind sharing which blog platform you're using?

    I'm looking to start my own blog in the near future but I'm
    having a tough time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and
    Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs
    and I'm looking for something unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic
    but I had to ask!

    my page - append data: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1w-vmWhQ2AKO9qJ7IR0-45-cf4Ho

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