Kachin Rebels Allege New Airstrikes by Burma Army

One of the Burmese military jet fighters used in Friday’s attack in Kachin State. (Photo: John Sanlin / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—Kachin ethnic rebels in northern Burma said on Thursday that military air attacks against them are continuing, but that the guerrillas still hold key positions protecting their main base.

Kachin Independence Army spokesman La Nan acknowledged that one of the guerrillas’ hilltop posts had fallen, as reported by the government. But he said other posts remain in rebel hands to safeguard their main base at Laiza.

Burma’s military on Wednesday acknowledged carrying out air attacks and seizing the hilltop position to keep the Kachin from blocking supply convoys to a government base at Lajayang, which is near Laiza. The Kachin admit attacking the convoys, saying they carry ammunition and arms that put their own base at risk of being overrun.

La Nan said two government fighter planes launched rocket attacks on Thursday, following several days of strafing and bombing by fighter planes and helicopters.

The Kachin, like Burma’s other ethnic minorities, have long sought greater autonomy from the central government. They are the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a cease-fire agreement with elected President Thein Sein’s reformist government, which came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of military rule.

The United States has said the use of air power in Kachin state is “extremely troubling.” On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. is seeking clarity on the situation following conflicting statements from Burma authorities, and is urging both the government and Kachin representatives to stop fighting.

“Our view is that all sides need to cease and desist and get into dialogue with each other,” she told a news briefing.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Burma’s authorities “to desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians living in the area or further intensify the conflict in the region,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said. Ban called on the government and rebels to work toward political reconciliation.

“It is necessary to hold a dialogue,” La Nan said on Thursday in an email interview. “Military means will only prolong the problem. Peace can be achieved only through political dialogue.”

He said there appeared to have been casualties on both sides, but the government suffered more losses as the attacking force. The military’s announcement on Wednesday said several soldiers were killed and injured in attacks by the Kachin.

The military’s acknowledgment that it was carrying out an air attack came just two days after a presidential spokesman denied there was an air offensive, and raised new questions about how answerable the army is to the government.

The military by law continues to hold much influence in government, and is also seen as pulling the strings behind the scenes, even as Thein Sein’s government has been hailed for instituting democratic reforms. An order in late 2011 by Thein Sein to halt offensive operations against the Kachin was not honored in practice.

Tensions with ethnic minorities are considered a major long-term problem for any Burma government and a threat to the nascent democracy.

Fighting erupted in Kachin state in June 2011 after the KIA refused to abandon a strategic base near a hydropower plant that is a joint venture with a Chinese company.

The government last month delivered an ultimatum to the Kachin to clear a road by Christmas Day so it could supply its base. The Kachin rejected the ultimatum for fear of a government attack on their own outpost.

6 Responses to Kachin Rebels Allege New Airstrikes by Burma Army

  1. How has the Kachin been betrayed by the Burman? In other words, what is at the heart of ethnic conflict between the Kachin (including all other ethnic groups in Burma) and the Burman?

    First, the Kachin were betrayed by the Burman when U Nu, a Burman nationalist, overturned the promise of the formation of genuine federal state, when he reversed the 1947 drafted constitution already approved by Aung San and Kachin leaders, and when he rewrote a unitary state constitution in betrayal of the basic principle of the historic Panglong agreement. Here the formation of federal democratic system is not merely the spirit of the Panglong agreement but also the most appropriate political choice for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual country, like Burma. U Nu, however, took a unitary system, which is politically unwise, and his imprudent moves deeply angered the Kachin and all other ethnic groups. Mr. Chan Htoon, who advised those who drafted the new constitution, observed and simply acknowledged that, “Our constitution, though in theory federal, is in practice unitary.”

    Second, the Kachin were betrayed when U Nu administration reversed the policy of pure secular state, which is one of the main reasons for the Kachin when they joined the union, and began rather the policy of religious favoritism toward Buddhism, a religion the majority Burman practiced. Unlike Aung San, U Nu is a Buddhist nationalist, and his administration unnecessarily established a Ministry of Religious Affairs in 1950 to strengthen the ties between the state and the religion, Buddhism.Under his leadership, the state treasury has been appropriated for the furtherance of Buddhism, and laws have been passed to clarify its position and direct its activities. Moreover, the Sixth Buddhist
    Council, held from 1954 to 1956, which drew Buddhists from all over the world to Burma, was proposed and in part promoted by his administration, and the impressive set of buildings erected for the meetings and the World Peace Pagoda which stands nearby were paid for in large part by government funds.

    Third, Kachin language and history were taught in the schools in Kachin state in order for the younger generations to keep their own ethnic identities, and the Kachin were, therefore, promised to preserve, protect, and promote their culture, language, and religion when they voluntarily joined the union of Burma. In sharp contrast, Burma regime, then, prohibited the Kachin from learning their own language and history in the schools in the homeland of their ancestors, and Kachin language and history were replaced with Burman language and Burman history.It has increasingly become clear that instead of preserving, protecting, and promoting Kachin language, culture, history, and religion, the Kachin shall be Burmanized and Buddhitized.

    Fourth, Burma regime handed over 3 small areas, which belonged to Kachin homeland, to the Chinese without the knowledge and consent of the Kachin. When the Kachin found themselves in their homeland that there was truly an existential threat to their ethnic existence, U Nu further made Buddhism the state religion, escalating and even aggravating their frustration, intolerance, and anger. Thus, they deeply felt that they were treated as alien in their original homeland and that they must do all things necessary to protect their ethnic homeland and identities. It was indeed a time when Kachin nationalism reached its zenith, and they inevitably tended to begin Kachin revolution (KIA).

    All in all, the Burman leaders betrayed the Kachin, and as long as the Kachin and other ethnic groups are denied rights of equality, federal state, and self-determination (the principles of the historic Panglong Agreement), the civil war shall surely continue in Burma and there shall be neither permanent peace nor economic prosperity in the country. The KIA soldiers are freedom fighters. They do not forget the historical mandate for the Kachin that they shall not leave the fate of the Kachin in the hands of the Burman, and they shall fight until the end.

    • Dear Salai Mang
      Thank for your evidence base information and history in which how Kachin and all ethnics were and are betrayed by Bama U nu and bama military thugs. When i was young, the history book and teacher said all bama governments are for prevention of disintegration of union of Burma as well as protection of panglong agreement. However, we never know about the real content of panglong agreement and the true facts of dirty bama politician and bama military thugs.
      You should write those kinds of history particularly about the suffering of all ethnics from time to time. Otherwise, some naive bama will be arrogant they are superior than others in Burma. After reading your writing , i felt nauseated on those bama politicians and bama military thugs. Nobody can come out to argue with you. The notorious response writers in Irrawaddy ,Active Myanmar and Shan lay become mute and disable now after your blow on them.

      • Dear Norman Hla,

        Thank you for your constructive comment on my piece! The history of Burma has unfortunately been distorted in favor of the Burman to the point of entire detachment from the real history of the country that it does not deserve being called “our history,” and the younger generations of all ethnic groups should, thus, be discouraged to read that jungle history.

        It has been well documented that the long civil wars fought between the army and the ethnic freedom righters ever since 1949 took more than 210,000 lives, and hundreds of thousands of women and children as a result also lost their husbands and fathers. If General Aung San, the founding father of modern Burma, were with us today in Burma, he might have been broken.

        The national crises in our country has clearly constituted the hard fact that the Burman racism has been the root cause of ethnic conflicts between the Burman and all other ethnic groups in our country for over half a century. Being well cognizant of the nature of structuralized racism in the U.S, my white friends at Princeton repeatedly claimed that they continue to deconstruct white supremacy and critique their own practices, assumptions, and languages. They added that it was up to white people to dismantle white supremacy and white privilege to cultivate a culture without privilege and subjugation. How noble it is!

        I wish the Burman also say some day in the future that we are structurally privileged, religiously favored, and racially advantaged at the expense of ethnic groups. I wish the Burman also say some day in the future that we must stop Burmanization—once race, one language, and one religion—Burman, Burmese, and Buddhism. Burman supremacy is at the heart of political crisis in our country. I wish the Burman also say some day in the future that we need to dismantle Burman supremacy. I do not, however, know if it would happen in my lifetime or would never happen. For us, the ethnic groups, our demand for innate rights is hardly more than our survival, and we shall continue fighting for that.

        Further, the predominant religion in Burma is Buddhism, at the heart of which are compassion (metta) and nonviolence (ahimsa), and people cannot practice Buddhism without metta and ahimsa. Here my question is why the central teaching of Buddhism in Burma has so little impact on the lives and deeds of the Burman leaders. Despite the eternal message of metta and ahimsa, they kill political dissidents, ethnic nationalities, and even Buddhist monks. How is it possible that Buddhists kill Buddhist monks in the so-called Buddhist country? Killing life is truly un-Buddhist. The Buddha strictly prohibits destruction of not only human life but also all other lives.

  2. Bama military is killing Kachin for both demanding border guard force( controlled by than shwe) and robbing natural resources (building of hydro electrical power station, jade and mining in Kachin land ) from Kachin.
    Building hydro electrical power station is only for the benefit of than shwe and his Burmese cronies from the huge investment from China. Then, some naive Burmese blame China for this bama military cruel action on Kachin as well as teaching how to corrupt and steal Burmese people money and natural resources .
    Syria government can use air and tank power to kill own people without any action from UN. Japan are going to make heavy investment in Burma so thein sein is not worry about the western economic sanction on Burma. UK is busy with his continuing colonial rule on Argentina’s Falkalands island. Japan leaders will pray and praise his shine for his worldwar 2 killers , national hero. Rape is not acceptable in Indian culture but bama than shwe military’s culture fully supports need of rape behavior on all Burmese ethnics for his military strategy. US is busy with considering to release economic sanction on Burma for competing China and Japan. Is thein sein powerless or than shwe’s puppet? DASSK forgets about the important of rule of law, based on common logical and ethical sense, particularly on Burmese ethnic issue. Min Ko naing is busy for preparing to go to Philippine.
    The question is who is the main culprit on killing and raping Kachin in Burma.

  3. If the Kachin cannot attack the aircraft in the sky then they should attack them at their air bases and destroy them whilst they are on the ground. Attack the airbases, burn the aircraft that will put a stop to these air attacks. Who dares wins!!!!!!!

  4. Dear S Mang
    I will strongly advise the Burmese history book for inclusion of your above information ( how bama politicians and bama military thugs bullied and bullies all Burmese ethnics. The first page of the Burmese history book must have the content of Panglong agreement and General Aung san’s kyat slogan. We only recognise 1947 constitution, signed by General Aung san. We will not recognise new constitution , made by idiot bama U nu and 2008 Nargic-than shwe constitution for the aim of bamanization.

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