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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs