Jan 1, 2013

Myanmar - Burma will bring the hideous Kachin-war into 2013

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The civil war between the Kachin Independence Army and government armed forces has turn out to be more and more ruthless since news of fierce fighting cover was largely even in the social media.

Behind the scene of reforms, government army has increasingly sped up its offensive war to a new phase. The Burma Army has been attacking the ethnic Kachin rebels’ frontline outpost fiercely since Christmas Day.

It is appalling because the government has used not only heavy artillery but also enforced gunship-helicopters and jet-fighters in this military operation against the ethnic Kachin rebels. The news about government airstrikes is hitting the headlines through the media, and civil-based organizations and some peace-supporters fear the battle will lead to a humanitarian crisis following 75,000 to 100,000 Kachin natives who have fled their homes to seek shelter in the woodland.

Four fighter jets and two helicopters took part in air-attack on rebel positions near Laiza, the Kachin Independence Organization’s de facto capital on 28 December, according to the Kachin News Group (KNG). Government military planes hit KIO positions in Lajayang, a key town situated less than 10 miles south of Laiza headquarters. The fatalities were unknown due to air-strikes, as said by KIO officials in the area.

The fresh attacks on KIO locations near Laiza come just days after Burma Army’s Northern Commander sent a letter to the KIO HQ.  The letter signed by Brig-Gen Tun Tun Naung demands KIO pull out its troops stationed around Lajayang immediately. However, the KIO rejected Tun Tun Naung’s demand, by saying it will not withdraw from Lajayang or any other areas of strategic value in and around the Laiza.

According to the media reports, currently there are around 40,000 refugees in the KIO controlled area. Those refugees are facing food as well as medicine shortages because of the government troops’ enclosure. The government imposed blockades preventing the UN and its agencies from delivering rations to refugee camps located in KIO controlled territory.

Refugees International has warned tensions between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese military has reached boiling point after a 17-year cease fire agreement broke down in June 2011 in Kachin state. The camps remain inaccessible to aid organizations and the United Nations from within. Access routes exist from China, but Beijing is reluctant to host any refugees as it doesn’t want to be seen as dabbling in a neighbor’s internal affairs.

During her four-day visit to Burma in the first week of December 2012, the United Nation’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has spoken about urgent access to some 40,000 people in northern Burma who have been displaced by fighting between government troops and the KIA. Ms Amos said that the Burmese military has permitted only limited aid motor vehicles into the conflict area.

“For almost six months now, the UN has not been able to provide assistance to almost 40,000 people as we are not permitted to go to KIA-controlled areas,” the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, told a news conference, according to the UN News Centre.

During her four day visit to Burma, Ms. Valerie Amos raised the issue of internally displaced people in Kachin State with the President and her concern about the lack of humanitarian access in the conflict zone.

“We hope the Government will give us permission to travel to these areas and provide the aid that is so desperately needed,” Ms. Amos added.

Even though the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ms. Amos has made a candid call, the atmosphere along the battlefield looks like denying access to the UN Agency. In fact, it is a duty of the current government to provide humanitarian assistance to thousands of war refugees and internally displaced populations in various ethnic states.

In December 2011, President Thein Sein has issued an order to Burma’s Commander-in-Chief to halt the offensive against the KIO. However, the war continues and people continue to run for their lives. So, the order of the President does not rule over the military chief.

One of the biggest problems in Burma is the armed forces’ failure to recognize truces with ethnic rebels – truces that were agreed by the army’s own government. It is not clear whether the government is saying one thing and doing another or the soldiers themselves are going against their head of state. Nevertheless, human rights violations of Burmese soldiers in ethnic states must be taken responsibility by both military chief and the head of state since the buses are inexcusable breaches of international laws.

According to the ground situation, President Thein Sein alone may not have enough power to allow the UN to resume aid delivery or to stop the war in Kachin state. It will certainly be in the hands of the eleven-member National Defense and Security Council in which military chief is the most important player by constitution.

Hence, the unjust and inhumane war launched by the military-faction may not be stopped easily while the Western democracies undeservedly honor the military-controlled government as a reformist regime. In the absence of worldwide sympathy, war victims in Kachin state will have to face a manmade disaster in the year 2013.

 Zin Linn 


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