‘We’re Not Targeting Civilians’

President's Office spokesperson Ye Htut (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

President’s Office spokesperson Ye Htut (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut serves as the acting spokesperson for the President’s Office. In this capacity, he has made numerous statements to the media about the ongoing conflict in Kachin State. Yeni and Tha Lun Zaung Htet of The Irrawaddy’s editorial team spoke to him in Naypyidaw earlier this week about the ongoing conflict between Burma’s Tatmadaw, or armed forces, and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Below are some highlights from their conversation.

Question: What is your response to those who say that your comments on the Kachin conflict favor the Tatmadaw because you yourself are an ex-army commander?

Answer: I was constantly involved in the peace talks in Kachin State when I served there as a military commander. As a major, I was involved in the peace process for 13 months in 1993-94, when the peace talks were being held at the state level. My counterpart at the time was Col Gyi Naung of the KIA, who was a captain at that time. When the ceasefire broke down, we also wanted to rebuild it. But at the start of the fighting, the government didn’t put out any press releases because we wanted to avoid saying anything that could be an obstacle when it came time to return to the negotiating table. Later on, the other side started releasing statements, so we had to do the same to present our stance—the Tatmadaw’s stance—whether the Tatmadaw does this itself or not. My own comments [to the media] are in accordance with these statements.

Q: What are the prospects for peace in Kachin State at this time, as the government forces continue their offensive near Laiza?

A: As the president said in his New Year’s address to Parliament, we will reach a ceasefire first, and then begin a political dialogue [with all of the ethnic groups]. We have always said that the KIA should be a part of that process. Minister U Aung Min offered to meet with them again after their meeting on Oct. 30. We sincerely hoped that it would happen. If the KIA hadn’t surrounded government soldiers at Lajayang four or five months ago and attacked the Tatmadaw’s support convoys three times, we would not have had to step up our activities around Lajayang. We want to reduce our offensive and return to talks. We want their representatives to discuss matters related to the military. On Oct. 30, Lt-Gen Myint Soe joined the talks, but the KIA military commander Gun Maw did not show up, so we could not discuss military matters. We hope to meet again, but it depends entirely on the KIA.

Q: The KIA recently released information about civilian casualties, prompting some international governments talk about reinstating sanctions on Burma. Is this something that you are concerned about?

A: I think it is unfair to talk like this. We’re not targeting civilians. There have also been civilian casualties caused by explosions—many civilians, including engineers returning home from the hydropower plant on the Myitkyina-Sumprabum-Putao Road, and on the Hpakant Road, have died this way. Everybody knows that these attacks were carried out by the KIA. In another bomb blast, orphans were killed. But such news is not widely discussed. In the case of the casualties this week, we have said that we did not shell them. It’s not clear who did. There are also armed soldiers going around in Laiza. It needs to be confirmed whether this was caused by an accident, a bomb, or artillery. Without knowing this for sure, it’s not fair to rush to accuse us.

Q: On Tuesday, the UN special envoy to Burma Vijay Nambiar met with Vice-President Dr Sai Mauk Kham and talked about helping the war refugees. The US government has also urge the [Burmese] government to provide assistance to those refugees. What is your response to that?

A: When we talk about refugees, we have to distinguish them from the KIA/KIO members and their families. In whatever kind of conflict, those directly or indirectly taking part in the conflict are prevented from receiving outside support in accordance with international standards. For instance, the aid we provide to those in camps for the displaced in Myitkyina must not have an impact on the Tatmadaw. The same is true for aid that fuels opposition armed groups. We have to think more about this.

Q: The Tatmadaw has been carrying out airstrikes against KIA outposts. Why is that necessary?

A: It’s not the first time we used airstrikes. It was based on military necessity. It is something we do depending on the fighting situation.

Q: Some people in Laiza are believed to be suffering from trauma as a result of the artillery attacks and airstrikes. Doesn’t that create more ethnic hatred?

A: If you want to talk about trauma, we can tell you that the air attacks are not aimed at civilians. When we shoot, we are not shooting towards Laiza, but behind Laiza. The planes just fly over Laiza, so there is less impact on the people there. If you are talking about the trauma caused by the sound of the weapons, then what about the feelings of the passengers of the Myitkyina-Mandalay train that was mined, or villagers whose lives are insecure because of all the bombings in their areas? They could be Kachin, Shan or Burman. We should also think about the trauma suffered by those living in other areas such as Mandalay, too. Therefore, the best way is to stop fighting.


31 Responses to ‘We’re Not Targeting Civilians’

  1. Look gentle but big lier

  2. He sounds like a pro war minister. I think the government should show it sincerity by deescalating the fight first.

  3. What a good talker but full of lies. What about the over 17 years that KIA had but never allowed to have political dialogue?

    • So, peace talk with the junta means nothing. Nada! Zero! The KIO understands well about that. 17 years of wasted time. My gosh.

      • So, no more Peace Talk but Political Dialogue. Other than that Burma will be left behind. My country, Cambodia, is trying to catch up. We need it in the twenty first century. Pol Pot wounded our country but the new generation is now looking forward. You guys need to do the same. Please have national reconciliation through political dialogue, and find the best solution.

  4. The deputy minister is trying to be smart.
    No doubt the Kachin army is just as much to blame as the Tatmadaw (wanting to monopolize jade and timber extractions and so on). But that does not mean the Tatmadaw can use heavy artillary and air strikes, close to civilian population. And see how he is unconcerned about hardships and displacements suffered by all civilians (Do the families have any choice about their kinships?). The Tatmadaw is inside the Kachin territory. Civilians are not armed whether they be families of the armed men or not.
    So long as this shirking of responsibility goes on like this, the conflict will never end!!!!
    Why can’t the Government take responsibility for all the problems of the country? They can blame the Kachins, but must take responsibility for all consequences. Isn’t that so?
    They can, for example, withdraw from the Kachin areas, put a moratorium on timber felling and jade mining for all parties, and begin to negotiate for peace.
    You can win by giving, you know. Kachins cannot be our enemy forever. So, hug them, the way you do Karens, and be friendly. If the Kachins still do not trust you, then try again. For that is your responsibility. Can’t you see that the Bamas are bigger and stronger brothers.

    • PB Publico,
      If a group of robbers stormed your house and ransacked your belonging, then raped your daughters, and the robbers claimed that you were their father-in-law. Then they claimed all your property as theirs. What would you do to them? Would you recognize them as your son-in-laws or would you try to kick them out using any means? It sounded to me like you were a really good man and, would allow the robbers even to sleep with you wife. If you would protect you family, why not Kachins reclaim and protect their home which is Kachin State? The Burmese military is criminal while KIA is just defending innocent Kachinland.

  5. Dear Ye Htut,

    The civilized people held the principle that not every trust is good, not every mistrust is bad, meaning if trust is misused, caution is better, because trust between people can only be lasting if it is mutual; so trust is aligned to response.

    In July 2012, Thein Sein said that the union shall not discriminate any citizen of Burma, based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex, and wealth. The union shall guarantee any person to enjoy equal rights before the law and shall equally provide legal protection. He added that every citizen shall have the right to freely develop literature, culture, arts, customs, and traditions they cherish.Naturally, people are, however, judged not by their well words but by their concrete actions, which fulfill their well words, indicating that under his administration, the Kachin face greater persecution, oppression, and brutalization. More than that, during BBC interview on October 4, 2012, he even denied the stories of sexual violence committed by Burma army against ethnic women and girls in northern Burma, shamelessly saying that Burma army is so disciplined that it has never ever committed such crimes.

    When Thein Sein addressed the 67th United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2012, he stated, “I truly take my people as my own parents and elders.” I recognize the reforms he has achieved and I respect his stated mentality toward the Burmese but his well words and his real actions are not in harmony with one another. Despite some recent social, economic, and political reforms taking place under his administration in central Burma, religious persecution, ethnic genocide, and basic human rights violation continue in ethnic areas, especially the Kachin State, implying that ethnic groups continue to face countless miseries intentionally and systematically inflicted by Burma army on them.

    No doubt the Kachin has reasonably lost trust in Thein Sein-led administration and you not without reasons, and I can honestly tell you now that as long as the ethnic groups are denied the rights of equality, federalism, and self-determination, all members of the UNFC shall never lay down their arms; the civil war shall thus be prolonged not because of the KIA but because of the Thein Sein administration, which never keeps its own promise. If you and the Thein Sein administration really want to see a lasting peace restored in Burma, return (not give) the rights you robbed from the ethnic groups, who voluntarily joined the union of Burma after the signing of the historic Panglong Agreement. History gently reveals itself that Kachin State was an independent sovereign country, which was never ever subjugated by the Burman kings historically, and the leaders of the Kachin voluntarily joined the union of Burma at Panglong on the basis of equality, self-determination, and federalism, all of which have been taken away.

    • Hallelujah! This is the truth. I agree with Salai’s comment because his scholarly comment is revealing and telling us the truth. Let every Christian say “Amen” and let every Buddhist say “Thadu”.

  6. “We are not targeting the civilians but shooting at them”.

  7. Did Irrawaddy cover the news when KIA was shelling the Burmese Army out postsa couple of months ago thus causing a lot of casualities and the mining of the passenger trains by KIA? We readers are not stupid. i know that you wrie what your funder has asked you to write. I have never supported the military regime but this time, Iam with them. Not everything that the present government does is wrong. You can’t portray as such. We want fair coverage of the Burmese news and don’t think that we burmese are all happy when you guys atck President Thein sein’s government. Democracy means fairness to all. Got it!!!

    • Does that mean Every burmese want to kill Kachin in accordance with your defination of democracy?

    • Yes, Irrawaddy forgot to cover the news about KIA shelling Burmese Army outpost near La Ja Yang. Irrawaddy also forgot to cover the news where Burmese soldiers killed each other near Northern Command, Myitkyina, or Gen. Tun Tun Naung demanding Chief. Min. Lajawn Ngan Seng to provide 3,000 young people to serve as porter in front line. KIA may be mining passenger trains, but Burmese army battalions should stop hiding behind civilians and ride the trains as civilians. They should stop changing into their uniform as soon as they arrive Myitkyina train station.

      • What were Burman army doing in Lajayang to begin with? Last time I checked Lajayang was in Kachinland. What do you do when you have an intruder in your house? In this case, the intruder is not only armed and drunk, but also a convicted felon. Do you call the police first or make sure that you knock him out so that the bandit can’t harm your family members?

  8. Every Interview made between The Irawaddy & Thein Sein’s Govt Official would be the same. They won’t tell us the Truth.They said”They didn’t killed or shelled the Civilians”. Why did they used the Airstrikes. Are the KIA monsters or Assasins to the Kachin or other People. Then, why not the Thein Sein’s Govt & Thatmadaw/Licensed to kill ( not Tatmadaw ) treating to the People. Every Major Battle in Burma, not only in Kachin State, they used Airstrikes to the Rebels and it affect to the People. The Saddest moments are the Sufferings of the People. Parents lost their Children. Children lost their Parents. Almost everyOne Lost their Loved Ones. Because of the Landmines Our People Lost their Body Parts and disabled the Rest of their life. Why not Making Sincere Dialogue between the Govt & the Rebels. DIM Ye Htut said”The Airstrikes is Military Necessity “. Kachin or KIA is your Own Ethnic People. Making War is the Last Option in Modern Warfare. Please Try to be Nice in Global Community.

  9. Yet htut
    Why do not you allow UN and journalist to visit Kachin land for fact finding, the cause of broken ceasefire ? Your reason for killing Kachin is Kachin’s disagreement on the forming border guard force , controlled by bama military thugs but Irrawaddy did not ask this question to you. If you say you will honor Panglong agreement and do not send bama soldiers to the Kachin land, there is nothing happened in Kachin lands and Kachin will talk to you at once. If your house is intruded by others , what will you do as bama soldier has no right to intrude Kachin land. Kachin soldiers never intrude to Rangoon, Mandalay and Nay-Pye-Daw whenever Kachin are strong or not in history with the help of British colony. If your soldiers have no right to intrude Kachin land, your explanation in your powerless office is rubbish as people around the world are not naive. Around the world ask you why your soldier intrude or invade Kachin land all of the sudden and why you break ceasefire agreement,designed by rapist than shwe and khin nyunt. If you can not answer those questions , please do not twist the true facts on those ethnics issue. All ethnics are suspicious on you for a long time. Do not blame China who teach you to do so illogically.
    Irrawaddy should mention full content of panglong agreement, Narigc-rapist than shwe 2008 constitution as well as reason of ceasefire broken down due to Nargic-rapist than shwe constitution ( border guard force). Otherwise, the bama military thugs will twist the true facts on those ethnics issues again and again. There are many naive Burmese and monks in Burma.

  10. Excellent, then stop the Tatmadaw fighting. Show leadership and be the first to stop. Be bold, take the initiative, offer the Kachin an olive branch for peace. You will get the respect of the international community and help lift Burma out of poverty. Be brave Ye Htut, lead the way.

  11. Htay Zaw from Naypyitaw denied the use of heicopters but he confessed it later. Then, another denial happened again about the use of fighter jets which they also confessed it later again. Why should people believe now what Ye Htut says? Lying and cheating are always parts of their daily business. To me, it is clear that this government has no compassion even to their own blood related Burmans, then there is no way the ethnics may expect to receive compassion and love from this government. Once cheat, always cheat. In the time of WW II, Aung San asked assistance from Japan to kick out the Brits from Burma. Later, he switched side and fought with the Brits against the Japanese again. Retreating Japanese soldiers lost their lives in the hands of Aung San’s thugs, I mean, unarmed Japanese soldiers. There was no way the Burma’s army could defeat the Japanese military during that time because there were more than 150,00 Japanese soldiers in Burma. The Japanese troops withdrew from front-lines as Americans dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima which ended the war. We the Japanese people do have bitter feeling the Burmese for that. Ethnics in the Union of Burma are so unfortunate because you guys need to face these liars for many many more years to come. At Pang Long, Aung San and the Burmans cheated you badly and successfully. It will be very difficult to get out of this mess. Sorry.

    • Appreciate your opinions. Even if the cease fire is declared from both sides and peace treaty signed, the right to secede must be one of the options either through referendum or by special decree under extreme circumstances. It must become a law of Kachinland. A bullet flying into Kachinland from Burma proper should automatically be regarded as an extreme circumstance and will cause the birth of Kachin Republic.

    • Dear Yamaguchi
      You wrote: “Retreating Japanese soldiers lost their lives in the hands of Aung San’s thugs, I mean, unarmed Japanese soldiers.” We the Japanese people do have bitter feeling the Burmese for that.””There was no way the Burma’s army could defeat the Japanese military during that time because there were more than 150,00 Japanese soldiers in Burma. ”

      I believe in your word because in some foreign movies, including Chinese ones , it shows that Japanese soldiers put down their guns ( unarmed themselves) when there was announcement from their Japanese king for surrender. Some brave Japanese soldiers, particularly in high ranking officers killed themselves for this surrender. Japanese soldiers were cruel in Nangkin massacre in China but had good behavior in delta region of Burma during their occupation. Anyway, you should ask your Japanese government to review their huge investment in Burma in the aspect of lack of obligation of Panglong agreement. I would like to add one information from BBC that General Aung san’s army also did Karen ethnics cleansing while bama army was fighting British colony during Japanese invasion in Burma. The crucial battle in Myitkyina , upper Burma was fighting only between Japanese and Chinese soldiers for freedom of Burma as well as India from Japanese occupations. In history, there was no bama army and Allied soldier initially in this very important crucial battle for Burma. It is very sad that DASSK can not or does not give opinion on the well documented panglong treaty.

  12. Presient Thein Sein and all liars,

    The history will reveal the real truth, it will not lie. You may fool around one at a time but you will not fool around all at once. Make no mistake, your sins will find you out. The end never justifes the means. The world is not stupid, of course some are not exempt such as Cronies, ASSK, and blood sucking opportunists. You and all in power will never be forgotten as bloody fools, Liars,and devils.

  13. Your comment was only based on what you saw on TV and what you read in the papares but not on common sense. Did you know that KIa was the first party to breach the ceasefire agreement and started attacking the Burmese government’s out posts which has cause a lot of casualties from the government’s side. And the Burmese Army is not only formed with Burmans. There is ethnic representation in the Burmese Army and where would you draw the ethnic line? Why was the media not covering that? There is no such thing as a one sided war. In every war there are casulties and both sides are equally resposible for that. I can assume that a lot of the commentators are not living in Burma and they are just writing what they think is right based on what the Western Media has fed them. Come live in Burma and get real or be part of the democractic process which is better than working as a modern slave in a developed country in the Western Hemisphere.

  14. What a blatant distortion of the truth! He’s a good political spokeperson but a disingenuous propagandist. It should be quite obvious as to why the Tatmadaw and their generals are fighting the Kachins quite differently from the other ethnic groups of Burma, and their lands. They’ve already sucked every ounce of blood, treasure and natural resources from the other groups. But these ‘generals’ and their allies in China, along with their cronies in Burma are ravenous for the many treasures and natural resources still left in the magnificient Kachin State. For this ‘bandit’ government, it’s all about greed, greed, greed.
    So, please pray that they will finally repent of their wickedness, and not be cursed for many generations to come. For after all, God says that “Vengeance is Mine”.

  15. We are not targeting the civilians, but we are shooting and killing the civilians.

  16. I think Salai Lian has got me wrong. But never mind, that is your own thinking. I had not meant the way you had taken me to mean. I Stand for PEACE, for the Kachins as well as the rest of the people. I have hated any armed men looting, killing and raping women.
    When I said the Kachins were just as much to blame, I meant their destructive methods at sites not in the battle fields.

  17. Withdraw the Government troops to the Safe distance from the KIAs, KIA will not shoot the withdrawing troops. Try this tactics, it will surely work. Giving military pressures for peace talk is the grave mistake of the Government.

  18. Unbelievably naive and crooked guy next to the president of one country. Blunt shameless lies from the mouths of such level VIPs (It can happen only in Burma). The World well understand whats happening in Burma. The ultimate objective of the Burmese Government is elimination, crashed the ethnic rights and to build monoculture country under the military controlled half dark green Government. Kachins stand for the truth and the Rights of all Ethnic Peoples of Burma including all suppressed and humiliated Burmese.

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