Despite Donor Love-in and Ceasefire Pledge, Kachin War Continues

A KIA soldier lobs a grenade at Burmese army forces advancing on Hkaya Bum on Sunday. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

A KIA soldier lobs a grenade at Burmese army forces advancing on Hkaya Bum on Sunday. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

SINGAPORE — Despite a government ceasefire called on Friday evening, fighting continued over the weekend between the Burmese government forces and rebels from the Kachin ethnic minority based close to the border with China.

On Saturday, fighting raged near the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stronghold of Laiza even as the government was telling international donors at a two-day conference in the capital Naypyidaw that it would work to end the conflict.

When the ceasefire was unexpectedly announced by state media on Friday, the Kachin initially saw it as a ploy to try resupply government soldiers. There was also confusion over the extent of the ceasefire, which appeared to be confined to the vicinity of Laiza, where fighting has been fierce since the final week of December.

The KIA, which resumed fighting for greater autonomy for the roughly 1 million ethnic Kachin in Burma’s rugged northernmost state after a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down in June 2011, said that the Burmese army’s offensive over the weekend centered on the militia’s Hkaya Bum outpost, which appeared to be its next target after taking three other KIA outposts on Friday. Reports by Irrawaddy correspondents on the front line confirmed the KIA’s accounts of the weekend’s fighting in the area.

Burmese authorities accused the rebels of killing two police officers in the town of Kamaing on the morning of Jan. 19, after the ceasefire was supposed to take effect. The same morning, KIA landmines injured 22 people traveling on buses in Kachin State, according to the government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar.

The government says that the ceasefire breakdown is because the KIA continued to attack army positions. Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, President’s Office spokesperson Ye Htut said that “current fighting in Lajayang after the [ceasefire] statement is because our troops have to shoot back at the KIA. They attacked the outposts which we secured last week.”

Despite the latest clashes, President Thein Sein again pledged peace on Saturday in a speech to representatives of Western governments and international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. “Our government will make genuine and lasting peace with the KIA. We plan to hold a political dialogue in early 2013 after signing ceasefire agreements with 10 other armed groups,” he said.

In stark contrast to the president’s tempered tone, however, state media continues to attack the KIA and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), engaging in “Nazi-like propaganda” against the group, according to the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of Burma’s ethnic minority militias of which the KIA is a member.

The UNFC, which includes several militias which already have ceasefires with the government, accused the same government of trying to “paint the KIO/KIA black in the eyes of the people of Burma and international community” and accused Naypyidaw of trying to isolate the Kachin, emulating a tactic used prior to the Burmese army’s storming of the Karen National Union (KNU) headquarters at Manerplaw in 1995.

The KIA says that it wants any forthcoming peace talks with the government to be conducted via the UNFC. “We want the UNFC to take a leading role in the political dialogue. We have agreed in the UNFC that it will take that role if the dialogue takes place,” KIA spokesperson La Nan told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

The KIA conceded in late December that an upsurge in attacks by the Burmese armed forces—including airstrikes and fatal artillery shelling of civilian areas—means that there is now a direct threat to Laiza.

Dr Nyo Tun Awng, deputy head of the small contingent of Arakan Army militia fighting alongside the KIA, said that the fighting was taking a heavy toll on the rebels.

“I have not slept in two days,” he said, audibly fatigued, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The latest upsurge in fighting around the rebel headquarters came when the Kachin—supported on the front line by the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF)—countered a Burma Army attempt to resupply soldiers near the front line on Dec. 14.

The Kachin overran a Burmese army position near a Buddhist temple on the main road from Laiza to the state capital Myitkyina, upping the ante in a grueling 18-month war but sparking an aerial counterattack by Burmese forces and subsequent loss of several KIA-held positions close to Laiza.

Kachin-based parliamentarians have twice proposed peace talks in recent days in Burma’s Parliament, in an attempt to stop fighting in the resource-rich northern region.

China, which shares a border with the war-torn region and has substantial economic interests in Kachin State, has also voiced concern over the conflict, and particularly the possibility of a refugee influx should fighting worsen. After meeting with Burma’s President Thein Sein over the weekend, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying told China Central Television that both sides had “reached consensus and will strive for” a stable and peaceful border to ensure that people’s lives are not affected by the conflict.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission said on Friday that it was concerned that insufficient aid was reaching Kachin civilians in camps inside KIA-held areas.

“It is a great concern that the humanitarian situation in Kachin State is worsening as a result of the conflict while access to humanitarian aid in conflict areas and along the border [between China] and Kachin State is difficult,” the commission said.

The Burmese government says it limits aid getting into KIA areas as it fears the assistance could bolster the rebels, rather than help civilians.

On Saturday, the US embassy in Rangoon tweeted that America has to date provided $5 million in aid to assist civilians displaced by the Kachin conflict. Asked how much of this had gone to support the tens of thousands sheltering in camps inside KIA territory, the embassy had not responded by the time of writing.

After the weekend conference in Naypyidaw, international donors are expected to allocate around a half a billion dollars a year in aid to Burma in the coming years, as the country’s government outlines changes in key sectors of the economy in an attempt to woo Western investors and secure a write-off for at least some of the $3.5 billion debt it owes donors, excluding Japan.

Roughneen reported from Kachin State in late December.

9 Responses to Despite Donor Love-in and Ceasefire Pledge, Kachin War Continues

  1. Unlike the Wa state Kachin land is much more than forests and no opium poppy. So to the generals there is nothing wrong with Kachin State except it’s full of Kachins!

    China like the imperial West is fork tongued with an eye on the resources and influence nowadays. The generals are playing a lethal game of very high stakes. The KIA isn’t likely to be wiped out anytime soon, and if they aren’t too careful we’re going to end up with a proxy war on Burmese soil where the Wa might just join in equipped with Chinese military hardware, the U.S on its part cozying up to the generals including closer military ties.

    Peace doesn’t live in Burma. It hasn’t for as long as my generation can remember. So for crying out loud – PEACE, LAND and FOOD!

  2. Cheer UNFC, ABSDF and Dr Nyo Tun Awng ( Arakan Army militia),
    We all Burmese support you as it is the people war against Bama military thugs.

  3. Other ethnics who signed cease-fire with the Burmese junta need to reconsider. The KIO/KIA signed cease-fire in 1994. 17 years was gone without any political fruit. It was just a waste of time. Then, KIO/KIA received just pressure to get wiped out. Burmese junta asked the KIO to transform the KIA into border-guard position. The color of the Burmese junta finally and fully revealed after 17 years of cease-fire agreement. The KIO participated in drafting the constitution but since KIO rejected to transform the KIA into Border-guard position, more pressure was illegally sanctioned on the KIO. Dr. Tu Ja was denied from registering his party to compete in the election. Lately, Burmese junta denied the use of helicopter gunships but the world had hard evidence like video footage, and junta admitted later. And, junta denied the use of fighter jets but admitted later again. Junta even denied the shelling and killing civilians inside Laiza. A few days ago, Hlutdaw voted unanimously to stop the Kachin War, and Thein Sein declared to stop the war on Saturday. Today, we come to know that all were just lies and cheats. Therefore, unless international mediator comes in to mediate, KIO must not respond or accept the Peace Talk which Thein Sein offered to the Kachins. The UNFC also needs wake up now. Other ethnics who signed cease-fire with the junta will just waste their precious time unless they wake up early. We all know and understand clearly that the Burmese junta is no way near to be sincere. And, more importantly, the Burmese junta is more clever than the fox.

  4. To,
    The KIA Fighters,

    Burma regime has been addicted to telling lie as it lied the country and the world for over half a century, and the same uncivilized regime continues telling the Burmese and the world lie in the age of information technology, in which no one can virtually hide the truth forever. Suu Kyi, who now becomes part of the problem rather than part of the answer- She told the west to suspend economic sanctions, to normalize the diplomatic relation with Burma, and to legitimize the barbaric regime, which has much blood of innocent people in its hands and leaders of which must be brought to justice for trial at ICC for crimes against humanity-distances herself from the killing and shamefully talked about the rule of law. It seems that she stands for the rule of 2008 Nargis Law: the law of Burma army by Burma army for Burma army. So, trust in none but only in your conscience for the national interest of your homeland and your people.

    You are indeed entrusted with the divine mandate and national obligation to protect the homeland of your ancestors and your people against injustice, suppression, and ethnic genocide systematically perpetrated and perpetuated by the barbaric Burma army. When you boldly stand for your homeland and your people, you shall surely face challenges, threats, and deaths. When you stand for your homeland and your people, you never, though, ask this selfish question. What can happen to our security, well-being, and life, if we boldly resist the invaders and the oppressors?

    You rather ask such responsible and self-less questions for your homeland and your people: What can happen to the homeland of our ancestors, unless we firmly stand for it in time? What can happen to our people, unless we protect them from the invaders in time? What can happen to the next generations of the Kachin, unless we stand for and fight for them? What can happen to the future of the Kachin, unless we now resist and fight for it’s survival?

    No doubt you gave your lives before, you are giving your lives now, and you shall give your lives in the future but not in vain. You gave your lives that your homeland and your people may live forever. You gave your lives that your homeland shall remain the land of the Kachin for the Kachin now and forever. In history you shall be remembered as the national martyr, and the Kachin history shall salute you forever.

    May God be with you in the valley of death! With the help of God, you shall overcome those sufferings some day!

  5. We’ve got a new entry to Oxford Dictionary.

    Burman promise (n) a blatant lie or very short-lived promise without much meaning.

  6. Chinland, Kachinland, Shanland and Kayahland were not parts of Burma when Burmese king Thi Baw was arrested and sent him exile in 1885 by British military. These lands were occupied separately by the British military after the fall of Burma. That was the reason British government did not want to include them along with the Burmese independence. So, General Aung San invited leaders from the above ethnics to Pang Long of southern Shan State. Aung San and the ethnic leaders agreed to form a Union on equal footing. They signed the historic treaty called the Pang Long Agreement Treaty which was the foundation of the Union of Burma. The Pang Long Agreement guarantees Federal Union of Burma with self-determination and autonomy on the ethnic lands which was later robbed away by the Burmese juntas, and that was the reason endless civil war has been throughout the Union for more than half a century. I mean, the ethnics are fighting a legitimate war and necessary war to reclaim which was robbed away from them by the Burmese juntas. Without this agreement, there is no Union of Burma. I am a citizen of the Union of Burma, but I am not a citizen of Burma. Burma and Union of Burma are not the same. So, the Union of Burma exists only if the Pang Long Agreement Treaty is honored. As soon as the Pang Long Treaty is betrayed, Chinland, Kachinland, Shanland and Kayahland are no longer parts of the Union. The Union is alive only if we keep the Pang Long Agreement alive. Many Burmese talk about the Union without trying to understand or without respecting how and why our leaders signed the agreement on February 12, 1947 in a town named Pang Long of Shan State. Justice and truthfulness must be served only when we honor and respect the Pang Long Agreement Treaty. Thein Sein does not need to try using different method to bring peace. Pang Long Agreement alone will bring peace when we honor it.

  7. UN US must use the air dropping of the Humanitarian Aids to Kachins as there are no other channels, all blocked by the Chinese and Burmese troops. The innocent civilians are dying. This is absolutely Genocidal War committed by the Democratic guise Barbaric Burmese government. Even Dictator Newin and Thanshwe could not afford such crimes, but Thein Sein and Min Aunghlaing. Government troops Must be stopped before they have effectively completed their Genocidal War Against the tiny Kachins, this is PURE CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY. The Civilized World Must Not Overlook and Idle. Burmese Troops are NAZI of South East Asia.

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