NAYPYIDAW — Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, under fire for her silence over the escalating conflict in Kachin State, said on Wednesday that fighting between ethnic Kachin rebels and the Burmese armed forces should “stop immediately.”
Speaking briefly to The Irrawaddy during today’s session of the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) expressed concern about recent reports of civilian casualties in the state, and called for an end to the violence.
“I don’t like any kind of war or violence,” said the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. “I have always said that we should negotiate amongst ourselves so that there is no need to fight like this.”
She added: “We will only be able to avoid such conflicts if we begin to practice a culture of negotiation.”
Regarding her own role in resolving the conflict, Suu Kyi said that despite being a member of Burma’s Parliament, she has limited power to directly address the issue.
“I am not a member of Parliament’s Ethnic Committee. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take responsibility for the matter or that I don’t care about it, but different committees should respect each other and not interfere in each other’s work,” she said.
She added, however, that Burma’s ethnic issues are not just a matter for MPs, but can only be resolved through the efforts of all citizens, including the country’s media.
“Mutual respect and mutual trust are the key to solving the ethnic issues. We, as well as the government, have to ask ourselves whether we understand the goals of the ethnic people and whether we can help them fulfill their goals,” she said, adding that she would be willing to assist in the peace process if she is invited by the government.
Suu Kyi also responded to a statement by British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, who said on Monday that the European Union could reinstate its sanctions against Burma because of the ongoing conflict, which earlier this week claimed the lives of several civilians, and has displaced tens of thousands of others since it started a year an a half ago.
“They were never completely lifted,” Suu Kyi said of the sanctions that were suspended last year in recognition of the Burmese government’s recent political and economic reforms. She added that the rest of the world is also concerned about the toll that the conflict is taking.
Fighting intensified late last month, when the Burmese armed forces began carrying out airstrikes against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) near its headquarters at Laiza, on the Sino-Burmese border. After seizing a KIA outpost near Laiza following series of aerial attacks in the final week of December, Burmese forces began shelling the town with heavy artillery. An attack on Monday, left three civilians dead and several others seriously injured.
According to the latest reports on Wednesday, Burmese fighter jets were continuing to strike a rebel-held post on Kha Rha hill, while ground troops were attacking another post on Lim Bum hill.