Air Assault on KIA Camp in Hpakant Township and China’s Belt and Road Forum III

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – October 18 

Published by MoeMaKa

Air Assault on KIA Camp in Hpakant Township and China’s Belt and Road Forum III

Recent reports reveal that on October 16, military council forces launched both an airstrike and artillery shelling on the A Nant Pa camp within KIA Brigade 9’s jurisdiction in Hpakant Township, Kachin State. Kachin news agencies report that at least 2 individuals, including a KIA officer, lost their lives, and around 10 others sustained injuries. The KIA has not yet confirmed these figures. This attack comes nearly a year after the military council targeted a music concert commemorating the KIA’s establishment in A Nant Pa, resulting in dozens of casualties. The Hpakant region is strategically significant, with the KIA controlling multiple areas, while the military council maintains troops in jade production zones. Jade companies in Hpakant pay taxes to armed groups, and the region is characterized by the influence of weapons and power rather than legal structures.

Hpakant is home to a vast number of jade miners, known as “unwashed jade finders,” who migrate from various parts of the country. The region sustains a large population engaged in diverse industries like restaurants, karaoke, and drugs, all dependent on the jade mining and trading enterprises. This diverse community encompasses people from different ethnicities and religions.

Simultaneously, the third Belt and Road Forum (BRF III) is taking place in Beijing, China. This forum focuses on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global trade network project connecting continents. While State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the 2019 meeting, this year, Military Council Chairman Min Aung Hlaing chose not to attend. Instead, he delegated the attendance to General Mya Tun Oo, the Minister of Transport and Communications. The reason for Min Aung Hlaing’s absence is unclear—whether it’s due to a lack of direct invitation or a perceived prioritization of relations with Russia over China. Recent decades have seen a strain in Myanmar-China relations, with the Myanmar military leader feeling subjected to Chinese influence on issues such as ethnic armed groups along the border and China’s stance on Myanmar’s peace process. Despite the importance of China as a neighbor and a global powerhouse, Min Aung Hlaing’s decision to prioritize relations with Russia is evident.

Although the military council leader opted out of the China forum, his recent remarks during a visit to Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State, indicate a commitment to expediting the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project. Whether this commitment aims to appease China or demonstrate seriousness about the economy remains unclear.

Implementing the Kyaukphyu SEZ project faces challenges, particularly concerning armed conflicts along the route through central and northern Myanmar. The connection between China’s desire to end armed conflict in Myanmar and the successful execution of Belt and Road Initiative projects in specific Myanmar regions is apparent.