Govt Army, KIA Trade Accusations as Conflict Hots Up
By Simon Roughneen 23 January 2013
SINGAPORE — Burmese authorities and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) continue to trade accusations amid fresh clashes at various locations across Kachin State in recent days.
On Wednesday, an explosion was reported in the center of Laiza, the KIA’s main stronghold, around 100 meters from the militia’s headquarters in a hotel facing the Chinese town of Nabang.
“A mother and child suffered cuts from flying debris as an unknown projectile tore through the roof and an upper bedroom of their home before exploding on the ground floor,” The Irrawaddy‘s Steve Tickner reported from the scene.
If the explosion was from a Burmese artillery round, it would mark the second time that the Burmese army has fired into Laiza, a town of around 10,000. Shelling killed three people on Jan. 14, in what human rights groups said was a breach of the laws of war.
Elsewhere, according to Burmese state media, six government troops were killed in a KIA attack near Ja Mai village in Kachin State on Monday.
The Kachin rebels reportedly torched gem shops in Hpakant, a town in the region’s main jade-mining area. The shops are believed to be joint ventures between the government and Zaw Zaw, one of Burma’s richest businessmen and a well-known crony of the former military junta.
Meanwhile, KIA sources reported on Tuesday that Burmese forces had torched 300 houses in Na Lung, a village about 25 km southwest of Laiza that had been captured during the offensive against Hkaya Bum hill. The village of Namsanyang has also reportedly been destroyed by fires set by Burmese troops.
The Myawady, a newspaper published by Burma’s Tatmadaw, or armed forces, that recently launched an English-language website, said that there was fighting near Lajayang on Monday around an area where Burmese troops overran three KIA outposts the previous Friday, just hours before a short-lived ceasefire was announced by the Naypyidaw government.
“There was an attack by 70 soldiers of KIA to the Myanma Tatmadaw’s platoon at hill point 1012” near Lajayang, the newspaper reported, adding that the attack began at 1 pm while Burmese troops were “doing administration work” and ended when the KIA soldiers withdrew around six hours later.
With both sides blaming the other for the stillborn ceasefire, which collapsed almost as soon as it was set to begin on Saturday morning, each has sought fresh ammunition in the ongoing wars of words playing out alongside the ground battle.
After the Jan. 14 release of eight government child soldiers by the KIA, Burma’s Defense Ministry said that it was holding 63 Kachin rebels, adding that the captives were being treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
The KIA said that it had captured the child soldiers during the now 19-month-old war with the Burmese army at various locations across Kachin State.
The Burmese government army, and several of the country’s ethnic minority militias, have long stood accused of recruiting underage soldiers and porters for deployment on the front lines of the country’s long-running civil wars, which have taken place in borderlands close to China, India and Thailand.
The government says it wants to hold new peace talks with the KIA, which in turn said on Monday that it wants any discussions to be conducted via the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an umbrella organization it belongs to that includes 11 ethnic minority militias. Ten of the 11 have signed tentative ceasefires with the government.
The government is considering the request, with the UNFC seeking discussion of issues such as the future political status of ethnic minority regions in Burma, as well as Burma’s controversial 2008 Constitution, which, despite the formal handover of power from a military to civilian government, gives the military wide-ranging veto powers.
China has repeatedly called for end the fighting in Kachin state, where it has significant economic interests.
“The Chinese side is paying great attention to the situation in north Myanmar,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Le on Tuesday. Hong urged concerned parties to fully cease fire as soon as possible in order to maintain peace and tranquility along the Sino-Burmese border, according to Xinhua, a Chinese state news agency.