US Ambassador Conveys Urgent Concern Over Kachin


Derek Mitchell, left, the US ambassador to Burma, talks on Monday with The Irrawaddy’s founding editor, Aung Zaw. (Photo: Kaung Nyi Han / The Irrawaddy)

Derek Mitchell, left, the US ambassador to Burma, talks on Monday with The Irrawaddy’s founding editor, Aung Zaw. (Photo: Kaung Nyi Han / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON —The US ambassador to Burma has expressed concern about the escalating war in Kachin State, saying he has urged key officials in the capital to stop the bloodshed as their army continues air raids on rebel forces.

“We have conveyed quietly our concern about any escalation of violence,” US Ambassador Derek Mitchell told The Irrawaddy on Monday, saying he had spoken with top-brass officials in Naypyidaw. “I understand their position on this, including [their desire to] open up lines of communication, but you know there has to be recognition of the need for a political solution.”

War in Burma’s northernmost state has been escalating since late last month, when the government began launching daily air strikes to secure an important supply route being blocked by ethnic minority rebels from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“I think both sides have to recognize that there is no military solution to this question, and that an eye for an eye will leave everyone blind,” Mitchell said in the exclusive interview with Aung Zaw, founding editor of The Irrawaddy. “I don’t see a viable political strategy here if escalation of military hostilities leads to further alienation of the Kachin people.”

His statement reaffirmed earlier criticism by the US government of the air strikes.

“We are troubled by the use of air power,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington last week, saying the United States urged both sides to cease fighting and work toward political dialogue.

The KIA, which is fighting for greater political autonomy from the national government, has been at war with the government army since a 17-year ceasefire between both sides broke down in 2011.

The rebels’ political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), has met with government peace negotiators repeatedly, but with no tangible results.

The fighting was ongoing on Tuesday, with KIA rebels reporting heavy clashes around their headquarters in Laiza, a town near the Chinese border.

Two fighter jets and three helicopter gunships also attacked the Lajayang region, near Laiza, again on Tuesday, according to Min Htay, from the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), an ally of the KIA.

Mitchell said he remained particularly concerned about the tens of thousands of civilians displaced in the conflict, as the government has blocked international aid groups from reaching internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Laiza and elsewhere in rebel-held territory.

“We continue to talk to them [military leaders] about the humanitarian access to these innocent civilians,” he said.

Mitchell, who became ambassador in July, made his first official visit to Kachin State last month, about 10 days before the government army launched its first air strike.

In the fact-finding visit, the ambassador saw IDP camps around the state capital Myitkyina, in government-held territory.

“We understand very well that these are not the worst of the IDP camps,” he said. “We understand those [camps] in non-government controlled areas have the most need, they have the most people.

“But we saw what we saw, and it was a first trip, a first visit,” he added. “We hope to make further visits to demonstrate our commitment on this side. But we appreciated the government’s willingness to facilitate and allow us to have the access that we did.”

He said his delegation was not able to meet with KIA or KIO members.

“But we did meet with representatives of Kachin civil society, people close to the KIA and the KIO,” he said. “We have engagements here with people close to the leadership and we will continue to have conversations with them.”

He refuted criticism that the United States had been too quiet about the war in Kachin State and unrest in other border states.

“We’ve been very much in consultation with the government on a continuous basis on this, and Washington has not been silent,” he said. “We consider this a very urgent matter. There are many ways to convey your concerns and your desire for justice.

“We’re trying to convey why this [continuing military attacks] is not in their interest,” he added later of Burma’s government and military authorities. “It is affecting their ability to build trust and find a political solution to a fundamentally political problem.

“Regardless of the government’s purpose in continuing these military actions, it is affecting their reputation in the international community and setting back their stated goals of peace, reconciliation and development.”

13 Responses to US Ambassador Conveys Urgent Concern Over Kachin

  1. “Mitchell, who became ambassador in July, made his first official visit to Kachin State last month, about 10 days before the government army launched its first air strike.”
    Thank Mitchell for your previous effort for the sake of Kachin people. You should pay more visits to Kachin areas in order to prevent the bama military thugs’ attack on Kachin.

  2. True. Even in this sort of authoritarian country and media connivance, it does come down to how informed majority public are and how they are themselves corrupted as well.

    So long as people want to have those rails, road,s Pipes and things think that they will also get rich, and they feel like drinking the jugular blood of the other to get that, they will support the action of the aggressor doing the job. So long as majority Burmese public stay absolute silent there is no reason for any foreigner to do anything except useless, meaningless, BS crap diarrhoea.

    At this time of most insane most inhumane aggression by overwhelming force on helpless mass of citizens, what are the other citizens, waiting for their turn, doing?

    All the so-called leaders have been thoroughly co-opted. If there is something people have to say, this is the time.

  3. May be Derek Mitchell do not completely understand the word “Moral Hazard”. How will you find political solution without stopping war? How will you justified the suffering of innocent Kachin people by plain agression of the government? Are you the man who stand up for weak and needy or are you enforcing American interest under Obama administration? Your country founding father Thomas Jafferson said never reward for the people who behaving badly. Opening relationship with Burmese regime is OK, but you guys want Burmese military stooge to get training by US military? Don’t you think it is a little too much reward for badly behaving people? As much as you force Kachin people, you guys have to force the people who are behaving badly too. An eye for any eye make every body blind, it is a good word spoken by high minded, but go and have personal experience as oppressed, hopeless and no future just like Kachin IDPs, than you will understand why do Kachin people feel the way that they feel toward imperialism of Ne Pyi Daw government. Without equality of ethnic people rights and Federal solution, peace that everyone want in Burma is unsertain. I think yo know damn well as I know.

  4. US and the West have been successfully cheated by the Burmese junta. Thein Sein’s lip-service was supported by the Lady, and the whole world believe in them. US ambassador may now see the true color of Burmese quasi-civilian government. Do the Kachins enjoy fighting? Absolutely “No”. If the Thein Sein’s junta is offering the Union the genuine democracy and federalism, there is no reason all sons and daughters in the front line will not want to come home to be with their mothers, fathers and siblings. The conflict is purely political but Burmese junta never tried to solve the conflict with political means even though the KIO demanded it repeatedly. Solving political conflict with military means will never bring Peace and Tranquility. The junta may not think that the armed groups which signed peace truce with the regime are satisfied with the ongoing neglect of political solution which they all fought for. Anyway, the US and the West have been successfully cheated by the Burmese junta.

    • This is giving too much credit to the “US and the West”. Cruel, dishonest, evil, arrogant and aggressive as this Thein Sein fronted Bamar Sit-tut is, this US and the West is millions of time worse. they have been fomenting wars and strife’s all over the world, from Timor to Ecuador to the Middle-East and Africa for the last half a century.

      They are the connivers, initiators and supporters of the Bamar Sit-tut for their own end, But as usual, like in Gadaffi and Sadam Hussein and Noriega and all, at the end they will get rid of their charges- Thein Sein, Than Shwe,- if he is not at Awazi already, etc.

      Still the real power is and always will be with the well informed public.

      Inform the public of Burma truthfully as a whole and appeal to their humanitarian side and urgently!

  5. I wish real politicians become Hlutdaw members in 2015. The current regime does not know how to handle political problems which has been the only issue which divide us so badly. Thein Sein is not a scientist. He is not an economist nor a politician but a soldier who know nothing about building a nation.

    • That Hlutdaw thingy with nonsense faux-American nomenclature costing the public billions of dollars in debt and now even the elephants have nowhere to go roaming around lost and killing people and destroying the farms, is itself a COLOSSAL JOKE. It means nothing, But suitably so does these so-called politicians Jokers in clown dresses. 2015, 2035, 2056, whenever.

  6. What I understand in democracy way , people should follow up on decision which is more vote and maximum percentage according . So in our country ,we have ( 135 ) nationality lives and stay together , ( 134 ) nationality leader are agree on terms and condition , why Kachin leader not want to agree , that’s not the normal way of thinking as country man . They should look other nationality and follow up vote decision, they should understand most of nationality are wanted peace , they should look their Kachin people desire and development state , they should become peace like another nationality . Why so difficult for them to be come peace , they are same people in country , they stay same land and same citizen , why they want special nationality , why they want to fight for , why they not want to give up for their Kachin people , who’s ask them to fight ‘ who’s ask them to claim so many condition , who’s ask them to do . Please understand that you are same as another nationality in Myanmar , so do not think you can get more facility above other ( 134 ) nationality , now we stay in democracy country , why they want to agree on democracy way , Kachin defender have to follow up like another nationality , see everywhere , don’t see only what you wanted to see . Do it for your country and do it for your state people . Try to honest to country man.

    • Maybe, you are followers of Khin Nyunt then. “135 national races” was spoken by Khin Nyunt. Among ethnic groups, why did Aung San invite only four groups(Kachin, Chin, Shan and Kayah) for Pang Long Treaty to form the Union of Burma? You need to study more, my man. Let me tell you one thing. Kachinland, Shanland, Chinland and Kayahland were not parts of Burma when Thi Baw king was captured. They were separately occupied. The rest were already under the Burmese rule when occupied. That was why they were legally represented by Aung San for Burmese independence. Kachin was one of the five signatories of founding the Union. Without Pang Long Treaty, Kachinland has no reason to be part of the Union. As the Burmese government violated the Pang Long Treaty, they felt betrayed. They are just asking to receive what they signed for at the Pang Long. Therefore, the Kachins are asking back what the Burmese government robbed from them. They are asking legitimate thing. So, they are on the right side of the history, my man. Do not compare them with the ethnics who did not put their signatures at Pang Long.

      • Dear Unionite
        Thank for your opinion and information regarding to the Kachin. The best in your writing is that “They ( Kachin) are asking legitimate thing” according to Panglong agreement. Karen did not sing panglong agreement but they are bullied by bama army as well. Now , there is another poisonous ceasefire agreement from thein sein ( than shwe’s puppet ) to ethnics now. It is the third time from bama military governments for the slogan of unity or democracy or whatever reason. The fourth time will be came out very soon after DASSK becoming next president of Burma.

  7. Burmese military is killing the innocent people in Kachin State by using unnecessary air strike and big forces. This action must be stopped immediately. They, all the ethnic minorities need to get equal opportunity like Bamar. Many Burmese people including me need to change our attitude and spirit ( like Jealous,casting other religion, race,discrimination even our country is very poor) and don’t want to listen others and no learning of what is happening in the world.
    Shameful .

  8. This military back Government is creating this conflict desperately to bring the Kachins to their knee, not willing to talk equally but under the military pressure with grinning crooky face. Whenever there is a talk, there is heavy Government Troop attacks to KIA simultaneously. The invitation for peace talks usually come along with the heavy military operation. The Kachin villages have been looted torched, the Kachins churches have been humiliated and destroyed to the ground. Kachin innocent civilians tortured raped and killed. All Kachins villages have been emptied and flushed out to the IDP camps along the isolated corners away from the medias where they are summarily killed by the airstrikes(which is happening now) and for the rest in the rodent barrows starve to dead. This Crime against humanity will surely tarnish the civilized world if there is no in time actions by the International Communities. Ceasefire without International Monitoring will just give advantage to the Brutal Barbaric Government troops who are already at the door steps of the Kachin HQ to commit final blow to Kachins. The Kachins have no choice, but to keep shooting which will prolong their lives a little bit longer.

  9. I wanna say to U thein sein (President of myanmar) and Genenal Min Aung Hlaing .You top two are responsibility this confflict. We want you to stop killing our family as brothers and sisters.
    We want to see good governing in our country as you said U Thein Sein ( President of Myanmar) Please stop the Northern state war if you are our President. We need peace for our country if you can’t make ! Myanmar people are long behind from everywhere in this planet.

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