For our recent magazine issue, we reached out to our friends in Kachin State to gather the on-ground situations of what happened in Anang Pa. Due to internet disconnectivity and security concerns, we could not get a hold of our friend and the interview did not make it to the magazine. However, he did respond to us later in the month, and it only feels right that we publish it. So here is our interview with Yebaw Ko John, Logistics and Recruitment Organizer based in Kachin State.
MM: We understand that you are in Kachin State. How much can you tell us about the incident at Hpakant?
KJ: What happened on the social night celebrating the 62nd anniversary of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in Anang Pa was devastating. It was an inhumane act and genocide from the junta. But it is not a singular event, both the people of Myanmar and the international community have seen similar atrocities of the military regime over and over again.
MM: What kind of location is Anang Pa? Is that one of KIA’s bases or is that a town filled with civilians?
KJ: Anang Pa is not a military base of KIA. It’s merely a transit village on a highway road, with restaurants and gas stations.
MM: Can you describe the situation in Hpakant before the air strikes? Such as the KIO 62nd anniversary celebrations and preparations?
KJ: Hpakant is the land of gems and jewels. Hence, it used to be busy with merchants, and economically developed with such businesses. Since the coup, Hpakant is the township that has held non-violent demonstrations for the longest period. There is also a presence of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) under the command of KIA in Hpakant. Under the current circumstances, people in Hpakant do not have the same liberty to go about their businesses on a daily basis, people have been rather cautious.
MM: How many people were there at the concert?
KJ: At least 200 people attended the night, mostly civilians. People from all walks of life such as celebrities from Bamaw, Myitkyina, Hpakant, Mohnyin townships, Christian associations that helped prepare the food, youths, business people, elected members of parliament, PDF members were present, in addition to the Brigade Unit 9 of KIA.
MM: Do you have the number of death tolls and injured people?
KJ: About 100 people died. Brigade 9 Commander and his deputy were killed, local administration officers, senior officials of many associations and local musicians were also among the victims. In addition to the 100 people that had died on the scene, more people were dead on the way to the hospitals since the regime’s forces blocked the roads.
MM: General N’Bang La said that a change in KIA’s military engagement should be expected after this attack. What do you think it means?
KJ: KIA has been openly supporting the resistance forces since the coup. Those that were trained by KIA are getting powerful in areas such as Sagaing and Magway regions which must have angered the military regime, hence such crimes against humanity were committed on a social night like this in Anang Pa on October 23. It’s certainly not a military target like the junta has been portraying. Three Russian-made YAK-18T aircraft dropped four bombs each to kill all those people. It was a genocide. However, I believe KIA will not respond just based on emotions. KIA understands the strategy and the nature of the military regime after all these years. It’s clear that the regime is luring KIA into initiating clashes in its own backyard (Kachin State), instead of sending forces to different regions (via PDF in Sagaing and Magway Regions). I personally believe KIA will move according to its own strategy and vision instead of being tricked by the regime.