Kachin Ceasefire Ignored

Rebels in Burma's Kachin state claim government forces are continuing to pound their bases.
2013-01-19
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A soldier from the All Burma Students Democratic Front, an ally of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), guarding an outpost on the Lajayang frontline in Kachin state, Sept. 22, 2012.
A soldier from the All Burma Students Democratic Front, an ally of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), guarding an outpost on the Lajayang frontline in Kachin state, Sept. 22, 2012.
AFP

Ethnic rebels in Burma's northern Kachin state claimed the military was continuing to fire at their bases on Saturday despite the government's announcement of a unilateral ceasefire a day earlier.

The government had announced Friday that the military would end its offensive at dawn Saturday in the key Lajayang area, where the battle between the two sides has been most intense in recent weeks.

"Actually, there is still fighting around this area today," La Nan, spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said, referring to Lajayang, where battles erupted after Christmas Day when rebels rejected a government demand to stop attacking military convoys delivering supplies to the army base.

He said government forces staged an artillery attack on KIA’s Third Brigade from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and that fighting was also continuing in other areas.

"We have said that the government must stop its military offensive operations if it really wants to get on with political discussions for peace," La Nan said.

Several rounds of talks have been held between the Kachin rebels, who are fighting for greater autonomy in resource-rich Kachin state, and the government, since fighting reignited a year and a half ago but they have yielded little outcome.

Since late December, fighting has escalated near the rebel headquarters of Laiza, along the border with China.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Kachins have been displaced by the fighting after a 17-year cease-fire between the government and Kachin rebels collapsed in June 2011.

Many of them are in camps in or near Laiza, which rebel forces said came under heavy military attack, including air strikes, which terrorized the local population and were condemned by the United States and the United Nations.

The exact number of casualties in the recent fighting is not known, but the government said Friday that 35 soldiers had been killed and 190 injured in a series of ambushes by the rebels since 2011, in the first official death toll for the military's side.

Hopeful

Despite continued fighting, Thein Sein was hopeful peace talks would resume.

He said he had ordered the military to stop its offensive and appealed to the rebels to also stop firing.

"We already offered to work for peace with the KIO [Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the KIA] and we invited them again today to hold peace talks," he said. "I believe that we will have peace soon."

Thein Sein also appealed to other armed ethnic groups to hold peace talks with the government.

"Any armed group that wants peace is welcome to initiate peace talks with the government anytime."

Thein Sein had ordered a halt to military offensives against ethnic rebels last year and promised to work toward national reconciliation following decades of military rule in Burma but fighting has been ongoing in Shan, Kayin, and Kachin states.

The continued fighting had led to questions on how much control Thein Sein, a general during the previous military regime, exerts over the country’s army

Since Thein Sein took office in March 2011, Burmese authorities have signed peace agreements with 10 armed ethnic groups, including ceasefires with Karen and Shan groups last year.

Reported by Win Naung Toe, Myint Oo, Tin Aung Khaine and Zin Mar Win for RFA's Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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