As War Escalates, Thein Sein Deserves No Peace Prize: Kachin Groups

President Thein Sein, center, waves to supporters as he arrives at Rangoon’s international airport from a trip to the United States in October. (Photo: Reuters)

The International Crisis Group has been urged not to award President Thein Sein with its top peace award, in light of escalating conflict in the country’s northernmost state and other recent unrest.

In a letter sent on Friday to ICG President Louise Arbour, Kachin civil society organizations from around the world asked the international anti-conflict group to reconsider its decision to honor Thein Sein at an annual peace award dinner in April.

“Given the worsening war situation in the Kachin area in northern Burma, and the recent brutal crackdowns in Rakhine [Arakan] State and the Letpadaung copper mine, for which the president bears direct responsibility, we feel strongly that it is highly inappropriate to award him with this prestigious peace award at this time,” the 16 civil society organizations from Burma, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Thailand and India, wrote in the letter.

The letter comes amid an escalating war between the Burmese government army and ethnic minority rebels in northern Kachin State, where about 100,000 people have been displaced since a ceasefire between both sides broke down in June 2011.

Last week the government army began launching air attacks on bases near Kachin rebel headquarters in Laiza, where tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have taken shelter in camps.

Burma’s government military on Wednesday admitted in a television broadcast that it had launched the air attacks, which the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said were continuing on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

International aid groups have been denied access to IDPs in Laiza and other rebel-controlled areas of the state.

“The fact that the Thein Sein government has denied humanitarian emergency aid to an estimated 100,000 civilians internally displaced by the conflict … is yet one more reason for the ICG to rescind its decision” about the peace prize, the Kachin civil society organizations wrote in the letter.

Jim Della-Giacoma, the ICG’s Southeast Asia project director, confirmed that the ICG had received the letter but said senior staff members could not give a comment to The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The Brussels-based ICG, a nongovernmental organization working to prevent and resolve conflict, holds its annual In Pursuit of Peace award dinner to “celebrate inspirational figures from government, diplomacy and public policy whose visionary leadership has transformed the lives of millions and brought forth the promise of a world free of conflict,” according to a statement on the group’s website.

Thein Sein is set to receive the honor in April along with former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“At a time when so much of the world seems to be headed in the wrong direction, Myanmar [Burma] and Brazil stand out as clear examples of presidents working for a better path for their people,” ICG Chair Thomas R. Pickering said in the statement, released in November.

The ICG cited recent reforms undertaken by Thein Sein, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners, the easing of media censorship and the promotion of dialogue with the opposition party, though it also urged the government to address sectarian violence in the country’s western Arakan State and work toward a ceasefire in Kachin State.

“For the first time in almost fifty years, all but one of the ethnic armed groups have signed preliminary ceasefires with the government, and it is hoped that an agreement will also soon be reached with the Kachin Independence Organisation,” it added in the statement, referring to the political organization of Kachins fighting for greater autonomy and basic rights.

Kachin leaders have been meeting with government peace negotiators in recent months, but with no tangible results.

The 16 civil society organizations alleged in their letter on Friday that the government had failed to engage in meaningful political dialogue with Kachin leaders.

“Since the root of Burma’s most pressing problems is the failure of successive majority-Burmese governments to address the needs and aspirations of its non-Burmese ethnic peoples, President Thein Sein’s and his government’s efforts to resolve the Kachin issue by military means will only make real peace harder to achieve in the long run,” they wrote.

“We therefore strongly urge the ICG to revise its award decision in order to avoid besmirching the ICG’s reputation by honoring a president whose government has yet to demonstrate that it is different from its previous brutal and devious military predecessors.”

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10 Responses to As War Escalates, Thein Sein Deserves No Peace Prize: Kachin Groups

  1. Any attack on civilains and wiithholding or blocking humanitarian assistance to displaced persons should have legal repercussions as there are mounting credible documentations on Thein Sein government’s crimes. The ICG has ignored the tragic truth and unless this award is halted, the reputation of ICG will be diminished in the world.

  2. The time is not yet ripe to honor the president of Burma. He may be alone insisting the peace strategy and simply cannot influence to the Generals, or, he also may a member of the Bad boys, not clear, but using airstrikes over Kachin can only be decided to his level, which is a hot topics. With the ongoing ethnic cleansing and Crimes Apparent Crime Against Humanity committed by the Brutal State Army, planning to Award such honor will only Tarnish the Reputation of the Civilized World Seriously.

  3. Burmese Parliament today is a bunch of puppets that just fall in with the instructions from Than Shwe.

  4. Thanks to Samanta Michaels, Myu Tsaw and Ninghkrin Magam for bringing up the partial truth of our government. It is indeed sad sad situation in Myanmar/Burma. The dominant ethnic/tribe has had the good taste of dictatorship and tyranny by taking one national religion (though it states to have freedom of religion), by not promoting/appointing higher ranks/positions in government/leadership- thanks to Thein Sein for Dr. Saing M Kham! by saying something on top and tapping or pushing or kicking at the front to do something. Kachin conflict is the show… Leaders do/walk the talk! What ICG can to is honor our president by giving or declaring him some homework during the honoring ceremony!

  5. Give price to those who order air strike against Kachin people, use fire bomb against unarm Buddhist monks, and denied humanitarian aid for the IDP?

  6. The Myanmar/Burma’s government is not defending themselves, infect they are invading the Kachin state and killing Kachin people by the airstrikes. The KIA is the one, who is defending their territory. At this time Myanmar/Burma’s government is not a legitimate government to deploy any troop in Kachin state until political solution become acceptable nationally by all people and ethnic groups in the country.
    Having Aung San Suu Kyi in the parliament is not a legitimate government. This is only a window dressing to cover up military government to continue doing what they have previously planned. Airstrikes in Kachin state but talk to other ethnic groups for ceasefire is purely military tactic to continue waging war in the country. This is not a step forward to democracy and equal rights for ethnic people.
    International community has experienced a great conflict of interest in this dirty military architect game now. Innocent civilian people in Kachin state will continue to be killed in this dirty game and conflict of interest. No moral responsibility is applied to safe the life of innocent Kachin children and women.
    Gaining control the whole world and losing soul is not the right lifestyle of human being. Let act to safe innocent children and women life in the war zones, where airstrikes have been taking place in Kachin state, northern Burma/Myanmar.
    God bless this universe.

  7. What kind of PEACE Prize? Peace prize for violence? How many times, Zaw Htay had denied the use of fighter jets? Liars and international law-breakers do not deserve to be awarded Peace Prize. Period.

  8. There are some comments made against the government of Myanmar based on their experience or what they heard from someone else or through the media. It is fair enough to raise your opinion but when it comes into religious intolerance or freedom of religion I see no wrong in this country. I am born, raised and practicing Christian from this country where I have never had problem with my faith. Only problem I can recollect my memories back in the country was among ourselves especially between the European descendents discriminated against Anglo Indian descendents, Anglo Indian descendent discriminated against other Myanmar and ethnic Christians which are based on the colour, appearance, social status and inability of communicating in their preferred language. There are other religious faith freely practicing everywhere but sadly our so called Christians are a little more cocky and arrogant compare to other. My message to all of you is examine ourselves whether we are witnessing the truth come out of reliable source or simply stereotyping the wave of accusations from unreliable sources. May I advise the leaders of all communities to teach the truth rather than creating hate crime between the brothers.

    • Brother Bill, you were born, raised and practicing Christian from Myanmar and you had no problem with you faith. Neither did I. It may be just that you are not living in Myanmar and not been to most part of the country. You were not among the sharing of faith by means of public awareness, worshiping in the churches, temples or mosques. When it comes to practicing own religion in one’s own life (individual) our country is a place we can be so proud of. There are at least five major religions in the country. In some places, brethren Buddhists (Islam or even Christians) would play their worships and prayers night after night with loudspeakers, asking for open donation on the roadsides (with loudspeakers) and in some places Christians cannot build churches or worship in the church. You were not the one that was informed by the authority, “In the name of religion, you don’t even pin a nail.” I don’t have to identify myself as a Buddhist or Christian or Islam or Hindu or Animist to practice my religion. What I wish is to use the same yardstick/ruler/scale/rule of laws in the country by which everyone is judged! Be it the cocky and arrogant individual be Christian or Buddhist or whatever, he/she should be judged equally by the law and the court will do the job. But in no time, the great changes will be apparent as our President is working hard. Of course, believers of the truth will be judged by the Supernatural Being!

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