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

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid