Lt-Gen. Myint Soe, a senior official with Myanmar’s Defense Ministry, has denied allegations that jet fighters were used in an assault on Kachin rebel positions near Pangwa on March 5.

Speaking on the sidelines of Monday’s peace talks in the Chinese border town of Ruili between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and a Myanmar government delegation, Myint Soe reportedly said that some army helicopters had flown over Pangwa last week, but that they were transporting army rations and school supplies.

The Defense Ministry official was apparently speaking in response to a March 6 report by Kachin News Group (KNG) that accused the Myanmar military of an attack just a day after President Thein Sein had told his Austrian counterpart that the fighting in Kachin State had stopped.

The KIO has made no statement about such an attack.

Located northeast of Kachin state capital Myitkyina, the Pangwa region is the former stronghold of the now officially defunct New Democratic Army Kachin (NDAK), an ethnic armed group that transformed into a government-controlled Border Guard Force in 2010.

The road from Myitkyina to the Chinese town of Tengchong, which passes through Pangwa, was one of the busiest trade routes in the country until the Kachin conflict resumed in June 2011, KNG said. After the KIO destroyed several bridges located along the Pangwa to Myitkyina road about 20 months ago most of the cross border trade in Kachin State has been brought to a standstill.

Pangwa was the scene of a bloody battle in April 2012 when the KIO succeeded in ousting the Myanmar army from its posts around the town. The KIO claimed that 140 government troops were killed in the 10-day battle while conceding that 27 of their own fighters had perished.

KNG also reported this week that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) was blocked by Chinese authorities from attending Monday’s peace talks in Ruili.

“The UWSA’s Deputy Chief of Staff Zhao Zhongdan and spokesman Aung Myint were supposed to attend the meeting as observers, but were denied permission to travel to Ruili,” said the report, quoting Yangon-based Weekly Eleven. “At the time of press it’s unknown why the Wa representatives were blocked by China,” it said.

A number of representatives of other ethnic armed groups were reported as attending the conference as observers, including: David Takapaw of the Karen National Union; Khun Okkar of the Pa-o National Liberation Organization; Brig-Gen. Sai Lu of Shan State Army South; Aik Shar La and Kham Maung of the Mong La-based National Democratic Alliance Army; and New Mon State Party chief Nai Htaw who also serves as chairman of the of United Nationalities Federal Council.

Link: http://mizzima.com/special/kachin-battle-report/9054-defense-ministry-denies-pangwa-airstrikes.html