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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid