US, UN Urge Burma to Stop Air Strikes on Kachin Rebels

By Lalit K Jha 3 January 2013

WASHINGTON—The United States and the United Nations on Wednesday expressed concern over air strikes on Kachin rebels in northern Burma, urging the Burmese government to stop the attacks and resolve differences through dialogue.

The United States said it was “deeply troubled” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took “serious note” of the government army’s use of air power against Kachin rebels—attacks that have now been confirmed by government officials.

“We are troubled by the use of air power,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the United States would formally express its concern with the Burmese government.

“We are continuing to urge the government of Burma and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) to cease this conflict, to get to a real dialogue to address grievances as the government of Burma has been able to do in virtually all of the other conflict areas,” she said.

The KIO is a Kachin political organization pushing for greater autonomy and basic rights in Burma’s northernmost state. Its armed group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has been fighting a bloody war with the government army since a 17-year ceasefire agreement broke down in June 2011.

“This is one of the last ones [conflicts], in addition to Rakhine State [Arakan State], where we’re still seeing difficulties. We have consistently raised our concerns about violence in Burma’s ethnic minority areas. So it’s very concerning, obviously, that these weapons are in use, and we will continue our discussion with the government about it,” she said in response to a question.

In a statement issued through his spokesman, the UN secretary-general called on Burmese authorities to desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians in the area or further intensify the conflict.

“The ongoing hostilities have already caused large-scale displacement of civilians who continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance. It is vital that timely access be provided for the delivery of aid to vulnerable communities,” he said in the statement, urging all concerned parties to work toward political reconciliation to build the basis for a fair and durable outcome for all.