State-Run Media Misleads the Public About War, Says KIO

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 13 February 2017

LAIZA, Kachin State — Government and Tatmadaw-controlled media organizations have misinformed the public about the Burma Army’s military offensives, alleged Gen Gun Maw, vice chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

Gen Gun Maw said that state-run media have falsely persuaded the public that Burma Army attacks against ethnic armed groups are related to those groups not signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

“[The Burma Army] says some groups need to sign [the NCA], and some don’t need to,” he said. “But at the same time, they say the reason they are fighting with some groups is because those groups haven’t signed. Actually, all media owned by the government and the Tatmadaw are telling the public that they are in a war against us because we won’t sign the NCA. This is a false narrative; it is the wrong path.”

“The Tatmadaw’s offensives against the KIA have been continuous almost every day. They are making ‘total war,’ using all of their manpower and technology except for navy forces,” Gen Gun Maw said during an interview in late January.

On Monday, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) sources reported that the Burma Army was deploying additional soldiers to Hpakant and Putao townships in northern Kachin State. The Burma Army was also blocking roads in Waingmaw Township, preventing food supplies from reaching camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and causing food shortages.

The KIA lost four strategic military outposts in Waingmaw Township in December and January, during heavy fighting with the Burma Army.

Continued offensives by the Burma Army will lead to a “loss of trust” and detract from peace negotiations, Gen Gun Maw said.

The KIO vice chairman expressed frustration that some groups were invited to engage in political dialogue with the government, but others were not.

Gen Gun Maw reiterated that the KIO and Union government must be able to discuss how to build the Union together. He pushed for the 1947 Panglong promises to be discussed at the Union Peace Conference. Otherwise, he said, the term “Panglong” should be deleted from the conference’s title.

At the 70th Union Day celebration on Sunday, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged the remaining NCA non-signatories to sign the agreement and join the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference.

But some of the ethnic armed groups have said they will only join the peace conference when they are treated as equals. Gen Gun Maw said the KIO requested “genuine and equal” political dialogue when the NCA was being drafted in 2013-15.

“We requested, if we signed the NCA, that we would be included in a joint leadership committee. But our request was not allowed. We requested for all groups to be allowed to sign the NCA, and that was not allowed either,” said Gen Gun Maw.

He said the Tatmadaw was reluctant to allow the actively fighting ethnic armed groups to be included in the peace process.

The Burma Army created different categories for ethnic groups, and it allowed some of the smaller groups—such as the Lahu Democratic Union, the Wa National Organization, and the Arakan National Council, which has no armed forces—to take part in the political dialogue without having signed the NCA.

After 17 years of ceasefire, war resumed in June 2011 between the KIA and the Tatmadaw, and more than 100,000 local civilians have been displaced by the renewed conflict. These IDPs are in need of food and shelter, particularly during this season of cold weather. Nearly half of the IDPs live in KIA-controlled territory and face regular threats to their lives as they come under intentional or unintentional attacks from the Burma Army.

Gen Gun Maw urged his people “to understand and to bear the situation” while the KIO works to solve the conflict through political effort.