News / Asia

Kachin Fighting Raises Fears About Burma's Peace Process

 Kachin soldier mans a frontline position, facing off against Burmese government troops about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization, in Laiza, Feb 13, 2012.
Kachin soldier mans a frontline position, facing off against Burmese government troops about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization, in Laiza, Feb 13, 2012.
Daniel Schearf
Reports of fierce fighting between Burma's army and Kachin rebels has raised concerns, both domestically and internationally, about the fragile peace process and national reconciliation.  The United States Ambassador to Burma has for the first time visited northern Kachin state to assess the situation. 

Burma exile media reports the military last week used Russian-made helicopter gunships and heavy artillery to pound Kachin rebel positions near the border with China.

The Kachin News Group quoted a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization, La Nan, saying government troops attacked within a few kilometers of their bases.

La Nan also claimed dozens of Burma soldiers were killed in recent weeks of fighting along with a few rebels from the KIO's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army.

The reports are difficult to verify as the area is remote and Burmese authorities rarely comment on casualty figures or details of battles.

But, Burma lawmaker Dwe Bu from Kachin State, says officials are denying the army attacked, and playing down the fighting.

She says the Army representative in parliament maintains they have not been attacking the KIA.  The President's Office, she says, claims the current fighting is not serious.  However, she says civilians in Kachin state say that strong battles are happening and if Burma's Army did not attack the KIA there would not be any fighting.

Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiations and implementation at the Myanmar Peace Center in Rangoon, says the army claims to be defending itself when rebels attack the military, also known as the Tatmadaw.

"They may probably try to re-claim some of the territory -- what they lost in last year to the Tatmadaw," Min says."In the meantime, the Tatmadaw they also are increasing the number of battalions to protect their supply and logistic routes in the area."

A group of KIA attacked a police station in northern Kachin state Tuesday and at least one person was killed.

Fighting between the army and KIA broke out in June last year, shattering a 17-year ceasefire.  Analysts say Burmese government attempts to pressure the rebels to join a border security force was partly to blame.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in the fighting.

Kachin state is also rich in areas of natural resources such as timber, jade and hydropower and parliamentarian Dwe Bu says both sides want to control those resources.

She says there are many reasons for the fighting but rich, natural resources is one of the main ones.  Therefore, she says, a fair division of the benefits of natural resources is quite important for civilians.  She says they need to raise this issue as an important one for discussion.

Burma authorities and the KIO have held several rounds of peace talks but with little progress.  The KIO wants to discuss the sensitive issue of autonomy while the government says it wants to focus on a ceasefire.

The Myanmar Peace Center has been encouraging both sides to negotiate a withdrawal of troops but the KIO says it does not trust the authorities and has been reluctant to send a commander with decision-making authority.

Despite ongoing fighting, director Min Zaw Oo says the military is not likely to launch an all-out offensive as some fear.  He says the recent fighting coincides with the "open season" when each side tests the other with military operations.

"In order to have such a ceasefire both sides have to take risks and meet and at least agree upon troop withdrawal and troop repositioning in the near future.  Otherwise, this conflict may escalate, especially in this so-called open season," Min warns.

Burma has, since independence in 1948, struggled to contain rebels along its borders.  Successive military governments cited the insurgencies as justification for staying in power and suppressing democracy movements.  Rights groups say the military is responsible for abuses, including forced labor, rape, and murder.

Since taking office, the civilian government of President Thein Sein has undertaken political and economic reforms and made national reconciliation a top priority.

It signed numerous ceasefire agreements with rebel groups and ordered an end to offensive operations.  

But the ongoing fighting in Kachin has raised concerns that the president is not yet in control of the military.

The United Nations this month urged Burma authorities to allow aid deliveries into KIA controlled relief camps.  The government has allowed limited access in the past, but for months now blocked much needed food and medicine, saying it was not safe.

Critics say the military wants to pressure the rebels by cutting off supplies.

The United States Ambassador to Burma, Derek Mitchell, paid a two day visit to Kachin state this week -- his first since becoming Ambassador in July.

Mitchell visited relief camps, met with local leaders and discussed getting humanitarian aid where it is needed, including KIA controlled territories.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid