Burma Hits Back at US Criticism of Kachin Conflict

By Paul Vrieze 28 January 2013

Burma’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Saturday rebuked a critical US Embassy statement on the ongoing Kachin conflict, saying that it “strongly objects and rejects” the Embassy’s remarks on the war. It also took issue with the US Embassy for continuing to call the country Burma and not Myanmar, as the government prefers.

On Thursday, the US Embassy in Rangoon said it was “deeply concerned” about the Kachin conflict and noted that despite a government announcement of a unilateral ceasefire on Jan. 19 “media and NGO reports indicate that the Burmese Army continues a military offensive” against Kachin rebels near Laiza.

The Embassy called for ceasefire talks and for UN access to displaced Kachin civilians.

The Burmese Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement in the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar on Saturday that it “strongly objects and rejects” the conclusion that the Burmese army had continued its offensive after Jan. 19.

It said the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) had been to solely to blame for the violence, as the Burmese army had laid down its weapons after Jan. 19 but was forced to react militarily against unrelenting KIA guerrilla attacks.

“The [US] press release could cause misunderstanding in the international community as it … elaborates the events as if only the Myanmar Government and the Tatmadaw launched the offensive,” the ministry said, adding that the KIA had also failed to respond to government invitations to hold peace talks.

On Jan. 19, one day before the government was scheduled to meet with foreign donor countries, Naypyidaw announced a unilateral ceasefire. However, on Jan. 20 and 21, The Irrawaddy observed repeated government attacks on a KIA-held mountaintop post.

Fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA began in June 2011 and escalated in late December, when the government began launching airstrikes on the lightly armed rebels.

The Burmese Foreign Ministry on Saturday also criticized the US Embassy’s use of the name Burma, saying the government “strongly objects the usage of the words ‘Burma’, ‘Burmese government’ and ‘Burmese Army’.”

Burma’s former military government renamed the country Myanmar soon after it seized power in 1988, but did so without consulting the population. For this reason, the US and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi mostly continue to call the country Burma.