A total of 211 government soldiers have been killed and 36 injured over the past two months during heavy fighting in the Hpakant jade mining district of western Kachin State, a senior Kachin Independence Army (KIA) commander said on Wednesday.
The number was an estimate based on armed clashes and is impossible to confirm.
The estimate was provided by Lt-Col. Nhkum Zau Doi, commander of KIA Battalion 6, during a speech at a Kachin Baptist Church in Hpakant, the Kachin News Group (KNG) reported in an article on Wednesday.
Most of the dead and injured soldiers had been stationed around jade-mining operations owned or connected to the previous military regime. This included an estimated 140 troops who died in an explosion in late August while stationed at a jade mining compound belonging to the Wai Aung Kaba Company near the Myauk Phyu (White Monkey) jade mine, he said.
According to KIA sources, the blast was triggered by an initial smaller explosion planted by members of the Kachin resistance movement. When the first blast went off it triggered a large stockpile of explosives used in mining that were stored at the site.
An additional 29 soldiers are also believed to have died at another jade mine controlled by Kyaing International, a firm owned by Kyaing Kyaing, the wife of Burma's officially retired strongman Than Shwe, said KNG.
According to the KIA, only two of its soldiers died during the same two-month period, KNG reported.
“This is God’s success not ours,” the KIA officer told the church audience, according to a member of the congregation.
The Hpakant jade mining region in western Kachin state is a lucrative source of revenue for both the KIO and the government.
Many of the area's local residents and migrant miners have fled since fighting began in the area in May. Many others have stayed behind and continued to work in the area's 3,000 mines even though sporadic fighting continues.
In September, KNG reported that KIA Battalion 6 had set new rules for mining firms operating in the Hpakant jade mining district, according to a businessman in the area.
Though many firms have cut back operations in Hpakant other firms continue to conduct large-scale jade mining projects.
A businessman said that the new rules apply to every firm that operates in the Hpakant region.
The rules forbid each firm from having more than 10 security guards and stipulates that the guards must register with the Hpakant-based KIA Battalion 6.
The rules also state that the KIA must be informed of any visits to a firm’s mining operations by Burmese government staff or military troops.
Under the new rules, each firm is also forbidden from restricting or interfering with the work of local small-scale jade miners.