Kachin Group Accuses Burmese Army of Blocking Red Cross Aid

By The Irrawaddy 2 March 2013

RANGOON — A Kachin rights group says Burmese forces are continuing to block humanitarian aid, use civilians for forced labor and reinforce military positions in the war-torn northern state.

The Kachin Peace Network claims that three medical supply trucks of the International Committee of the Red Cross were stopped at Loi Je town on Feb. 25.

After lengthy negotiations, they were allowed to proceed to Mai Ja Yang, but were not allowed to continue to Laiza, where tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict are living in relief camps.

The report could not be independently verified with the Red Cross and government spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

It also accuses the Burmese government army of confiscating local trucks to transport arms, ammunition and food rations for their troops on the Bhamo-Loi Je motorway, and forcing civilians to carry army supplies on their horses.

Fighting has eased in Kachin State since the Burmese army seized key mountain posts around Laiza in late January. That followed six weeks of fierce assaults on Kachin positions, which involved the unprecedented use of jet fighters and helicopter gunships.

But sporadic clashes have continued. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) says it killed eight Burmese army soldiers, including two lieutenants, in a clash at Lawk Hkawng on Feb. 25.

It also says that the Burmese army is reinforcing positions, delivering 500 troops to Man Sai, halfway between Bhamo and the state capital of Myitkyina, on the same day.

Following the series of major losses around Laiza, the KIA’s political arm, the Kachin Independence Organization, held preliminary peace talks with the Burmese government in the Chinese border town of Ruili on Feb. 4.

The two sides had agreed to another round of talks on Feb. 28, but these were postponed as the KIO stated that it needed more time for internal discussions. The talks are now expected in early March.