Kachin Forces Say Myanmar Attacks Base With Fighter Jets as Conflict Escalates

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) and Myanmar State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi meet the media in Naypyidaw ahead of a peace conference, Aug. 30, 2016.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) and Myanmar State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi meet the media in Naypyidaw ahead of a peace conference, Aug. 30, 2016.

Kachin forces engaged in a month of fighting with the Myanmar army said on Friday that government troops used fighter jets to attack a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) base, causing an unknown number of casualties.

The reported attack, about which the government army had no immediate comment, came as Myanmar's civil society groups and the European Union mission in the country called for a ceasefire to keep leader Aung San Suu Kyi's fledgling peace process on track.

"We heard that four fighter jets attacked KIAs Gidon base at around 8 o'clock this morning. We have heard that there are some casualties, but haven't learned the exact number yet," said KIA spokesman Col. Naw Bu.

The Irrawaddy news website quoted Naw Bu as saying the fighter jets attacked KIA Battalion No. 252 at Inkaren Hill in Waingmaw Township.

The Kachins believe the Myanmar govrenment offensives are aimed at pressing the Kachin Independence Organization to sign a year-old National Ceseafire Agreement before a new round of peace talks, the website said.

The 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, which met at the end of August, Aung San Suu Kyi’s signature effort to end decades of civil war pitting armed ethnic groups against the national military in many regions of the country.  The wars have killed tens of thousands of people and held back economic development in the resource-rich country.

"While we are dedicated to building peace through negotiation, it is not right to pressure us into political talks through military operations," The Irrawaddy quoted Naw Bu as saying.

The fighting in Kachin State as well as Shan State to its immediate south has displaced thousands of local villagers and drawn street protests from civil society groups.

On Thursday, the Organizing Committee for CSO Forum called for an immediate ceasefire in Kachin, an accounting of casualties from fighting and military spending in the conflict, and a plan to stop the flow of internally displaced persons.

"We demand government and KIA to stop fighting. To stop ongoing fighting, government army must stop its offensive first," committee member Thwin Lin Aung said.

The EU Delegation in Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon, meanwhile,  issued a statement calling for "an immediate cessation of hostilities" and expressing concern that the renewed fighting would endanger the peace process of Aung San Suu Kyi's six-month-old government.

"The escalation in fighting has resulted in casualties and the internal displacement of many civilians. At the same time, humanitarian access to conflict areas has been severely curtailed, preventing life-saving assistance from reaching affected communities," said the EU.

"Continued fighting not only puts the lives of vulnerable communities at risk, but also undermines the trust that is essential for advancing Myanmar's peace process," said the statement.

"We urge all parties to facilitate immediate humanitarian access to the affected communities in order to ensure that the most urgent needs of civilians can be catered for," it added.

In Washington on Friday, President Barack Obama formally lifted U.S. economic sanctions on Myanmar, following up on a commitment made to Aung San Suu Kyi at the White House last month.

Reported by Ye Htet and Thiri Min Zin for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Paul Eckert.





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