Burma’s Kachin rebels have asked the U.N. to monitor fighting in the country’s war-torn northern border region, drawing international attention to the escalating conflict that has marred reforms by President Thein Sein’s government.
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the ethnic group’s political wing, made the appeal in a letter Tuesday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who urged an end to the conflict on a visit to Burma earlier this month.
The KIO’s Central Committee said in the letter that they “earnestly implore” the UN observer teams or intermediary teams to the conflict zones, including IDP (internally displaced person) camps and the towns and villages emptied by the fighting.
“The KIO would like to request that the Secretary General continue to facilitate visits by UN personnel to conflict zones and IDP camps in Kachin State, so that appropriate assistance can be arranged and provided to the IDPs,” it said, in a translation posted on the Kachin News Group's website.
The fighting, which has raged since a 17-year peace agreement was shattered in June last year, has forced at least 50,000 people from their homes. Thousands more have fled across the border into China.
Colonel James Lum Dau, the KIO's deputy head of foreign affairs, said that the political situation in Kachin state was grave.
“In a situation like this, we need U.N. intervention," Lum Dau told RFA in an interview Thursday.
He applauded Ban’s visit to Burma earlier this month, when the secretary-general urged the Burmese government to work toward a ceasefire agreement with the KIO, but said more could be done.
“Very recently, Ban Ki Moon visited Burma and asked the Burmese government to stop the fighting. But I think [the U.N.’s involvement] should be more practical. That is why we want U.N. observers to go and see the reality of what's happening there,” Lum Dau said.
In the letter, the KIO said the Burmese military–which has waged war against armed ethnic groups since the country’s independence in 1948–had begun a “massive troop buildup” in the Kachin region despite initiatives for ceasefire talks.
It also charged that the military was bent on wiping out the Kachin ethnic group.
“The Burmese Army is now engaged in ethnic cleansing, and the conflict has now turned from one of political to racial in nature,” the letter said.
The Kachin conflict has persisted even as the Burmese government has negotiated preliminary peace agreements with 12 ethnic groups since President Thein Sein called for ending ethnic conflict across the country in August last year.
Last week, the government revamped arrangements for peace talks, naming Thein Sein as chairman of the negotiating team, the first time a Burmese president has been in charge of peace talks.
The six rounds of talks held so far between the Burmese government and Kachin political leaders have produced few tangible results.
At initial talks in January, the two sides agreed to “reduce and control” military activities and to hold further talks, but since the last round in March, no date or location has been agreed upon for the next meeting.
Reported by Kyaw Kyaw Aung for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Htar Htar Myint. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.