Friday, December 14, 2012

Armed conflict leads to killing, displacement in Kachin State, Burma

A December 11, 2012 news article written by Saw Yan Naing, writing for The Irrawaddy, an independent Burmese news publication, confirms that Kachin State, Burma is still troubled by armed conflict. Fighting between ethnic Kachin forces and the Burmese army in Kachin state, located in northern Burma, has intensified over the past few days, an observation noted by Kachin rebels, claiming to have killed several Burmese government soldiers. La Nan, the leading representative for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), notes that armed conflict has become an everyday occurrence.

Several Burmese soldiers were killed or injured during armed conflict from December 9th--10th in various areas under Kachin Independence Army (KIA) control, specifically by Brigades 1, 2, and 5, according to another statement La Nan gave to The Irrawaddy. He also stated that the army was making emergency helicopter flights to send more ammunition and weapons to troops and to deal with casualties.

The KIO's deputy chief of foreign affairs, James Lum Dau, stated that 60 Burmese soldiers were killed or injured in total during armed conflict between KIA Brigade 5 and the army in two specific areas within southern Kachin State over the weekend. In areas controlled by KIA Brigades 2 and 5, conflict has worsened, as Burmese army troops have stormed the area, with government battalions skyrocketing from 20 to 140, KIO sources have found.

Part of the armed conflict has also been concentrated in the strategically coveted Pan Wan area under KIA Brigade 1 control, near the Burma-China border. Fighting has worsened since December 1st after the army sent battalions 13, 77, 260, and 301 from its Light Infantry Division 88--to attack the KIA. La Nan comments on KIA rebels suffering numerous casualties in Pan Wan, with 15 rebels injured and four killed since December 1st. He stated that KIA troops took over frontline posts again in the area on Tuesday morning, where the Burmese army's Infantry Battalion 74 and 77 had originally taken over the area on August 20th.

As military clashes in Kachin State worsen, the possibility of political dialogue or ceasefire talks between all sides becomes more unlikely. The KIO stated it tried unsuccessfully to speak with government peace negotiators, initially offering to meet with them on October 30th. The head of the government peace team, Aung Min, has announced in public that she was willing to hold a meeting with the KIO, but so far, arrangements have not been made. Recent military clashes appear to have destroyed any hope for the conflict to end for the time being. James Lum Dau accuses the government of being dishonest, mentioning that every time the government calls for peace, the Burmese army continues to fight. He stated that he and the KIO will only settle for peace when the government is honest.

A 17 year ceasefire agreement breakdown between the government and the KIO in June last year has led to the current 18 month old conflict, displacing many villagers in the area. It has also been discovered that the UN has not been allowed to help victims in camps under KIA control and it believes that about 39,000 are outside government areas. Aid organizations believe the number is much higher, at 60,000. A leading UN representative asked the government last Friday to give the UN access to the camps. Kachin aid organizations have noted that internally displaced persons (IDP) are in dire need of blankets and warm clothing, as winter has already arrived. Approximately 100,000 IDPs are affected by the armed conflict, and are surviving in either KIA or government-controlled camps, according to aid organization information.

Despite promises of democracy in Burma, it is clear that Burma still has many human rights issues that need to be resolved. The plight of Kachin State shows that the Burmese government has failed to respect its citizens' rights. The international community must also step up and punish the Burmese government for ongoing human rights violations in the International Criminal Court. The international community also needs to provide more relief to the IDPs in Kachin State. How much longer do Burmese citizens have to suffer before the world does something about its problems?

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