THE NORTH WAR: A KACHIN CONFLICT COMPILATION REPORT
NOTE TO READERS
This is a resource compilation report which is intended for journalists, aid workers and other researchers who may be interested in the in the June/July 2011 conflict between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Burma's military regime in Kachin State, Burma. News stories and documents related to the conflict are categorized and reproduced or linked here, with a list of background information sources. They are in chronological order within each category.
Project Maje hopes that the ongoing situation in northern Burma, including resource extraction and human rights issues in addition to the KIO conflict, will be covered in increasing depth and scope by journalists and other investigators in the future.
Project Maje is not responsible for any of the content of any articles or documents reproduced, linked or excerpted in this resource report, and Project Maje DOES NOT endorse them or vouch for their accuracy. These materials and links are intended for informational and educational purposes. Journalists and other researchers needing further information and advice regarding northern Burma issues can contact Project Maje.
Project Maje is an independent information project on Burma's human rights and environmental issues, founded in 1986. The founder/director of Project Maje, Edith Mirante, visited KIO-controlled areas of Kachin State in 1991, 1995 and 2002. Photos of KIA troops (1991) and sketch map of Kachin State are by Edith Mirante.
Thanks to members of KF list for materials and to Bruce for this website.
The State of Kachins
The Kachins are indigenous people of northern Burma, with related peoples in China, India and Thailand. The seven ethnic groups who are collectively known as "Kachin" are: Jinghpaw, Maru, Lisu, Lishi, Azi, Nung and Rawang. In Burma, the Jinghpaw culture is the one that is most commonly identified as "Kachin." The Kachin peoples speak Tibeto-Burman languages. Most Kachins are Christian, with Animist beliefs and customs also significant.
Burma's Kachin State (population estimated at 1.3 million) is bordered by India (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland) on the west, Tibet in the far north and China (Yunnan Province) to the east. It is about 88,000 sq. km./34,000 sq. mi. in area, comparable in size to the countries of Austria, Portugal, Jordan and South Korea and the state of Indiana.
The Kachin State's terrain is hilly, becoming mountainous in the Himalayan foothills, with snow-covered peaks as high as 9294 ft./5881 m. (Hkakabo Razi.) The region was known for its thick forest cover, wildlife and untamed rivers. The main cities are Myitkyina, the state capital (population about 150,000) and Bhamo (population around 50,000.) Myitkyina is located on the Irrawaddy River which flows south through Burma. The Kachin ethnic population extends into northwest Shan State. Shan, Chinese, Naga and Burmese (Burman) people also live in Kachin State.
When World War II brought the superpowers of the time, Japan, Britain, the US, into conflict in northern Burma -- strategic as a land route between British India and Nationalist China -- the Kachins were valued fighters on the Allied (British/American) side. Kachin soldiers pursued the Japanese invaders with guerrilla tactics and sabotage, and taught the Allied troops jungle survival skills. Described by their foreign friends as "amiable assassins" and "a Robin Hood version of the Boy Scouts" the Kachins impressed them with their ruthlessness in battle and uncomplaining toughness. These "warrior" qualities, which persist, may seem contradictory with the Kachin culture which ordinarily values cooperation, consensus and gentleness in interpersonal relations.
As Burma was gaining independence from Britain after the war, Kachin representatives attended the Panglong Conference in 1947, signing an agreement intended to guarantee ethnic autonomy in Burma, a covenant which was never really respected by the Burmese (Burman) majority dominated government. Although some ethnic and Communist groups rebelled against the government immediately after independence, the Kachins were slower to form their own army of resistance. Some Kachins aided the early rebellion of the Karen ethnic group. Initially fighting the Communists on the government's behalf, Kachin WWII hero Naw Seng joined them in 1950.
In 1961 the Kachin Independence Organization was formed (with its military called the Kachin Independence Army.) While the idea of an independent Kachin nation had appeal among the people, KIO leadership tended to favor autonomy within a federal system. Over the next three decades, the KIO participated in alliances of other ethnic groups in armed rebellion against the military regime that seized power over Burma in 1962.
KIA fighting abilities were formidable, and taking advantage of a remote location and difficult (for outsiders) terrain, the KIO grew to control large sections of Kachin State from the China border to the India border, with headquarters near the China border at Pajau. In 1991 when the director of Project Maje traveled in KIO-controlled territory, the KIA was taking territory from the Burma regime's forces (the Tatmadaw), as described in "Down the Rat Hole." The state's cities and towns were firmly in the Burma regime's control, but a considerable non-urban area was governed by the KIO, with its own systems of trade, taxation, conscription and education.
The KIO relied heavily on the lucrative trade in precious jade (found mainly in the Hpakant area of Kachin State) for its funding, along with small scale gold mining and -- until the early 90s -- tax on opium traders. The KIA's arms and supplies were purchased from Chinese illicit-market sources and friendly associations were often maintained with Chinese officials from neighboring Yunnan Province.
In 1989 the leadership of the powerful anti-regime Communist Party of Burma, based in the northern Shan State was deposed by its Wa ethnic rank and file. It became the United Wa State Army (UWSA) which negotiated a ceasefire arrangement with the Burma regime. Chairman Brang Seng of the KIO then also entered into negotiations with the regime, signing a ceasefire agreement in 1994 with assurances of further talks that would lead to political concessions for the Kachins and recognition of national ethnic rights. The Kachin mood immediately following the ceasefire was wary but hopeful for autonomy and a "peace dividend" of local development, as described in "Down the Rat Hole."
Over the next decade and a half, political talks with the regime failed to happen and KIO areas of control in the Kachin State were severely diminished. The Hpakant jade mines ended up in the regime's hands, depriving the KIO of its main source of income. The regime made deals directly with Chinese companies for gold mining and timber extraction, sometimes including companies formed by the KIO elite for a share of the profits. Massive environmental damage was caused by Chinese gold mining (pollution, erosion) and logging (clear cutting, loss of biodiverse wildlife habitat.)
In recent years, petroleum exploration and monoculture plantations with land confiscation have further disrupted the Kachin State. China and Burma's regime also began hydropower generation projects whiich would build dams on the Irrawaddy and Taping rivers in Kachin State. These projects were opposed by environmentalists and local people facing forced relocation. The Myitsone dam at the scenic confluence of the Mali and N'mai rivers, which form the Irrawaddy River, is especially controversial as the site has enormous cultural importance for Kachins.
During the 1994-2011 ceasefire period the KIO appeared politically neutralized, almost never speaking out about human rights violations against civilians or its own personnel, or in support of national democratization. Urban Kachin students and environmentalists filled advocacy roles instead, using underground actions such as posters and flyers, and collecting information that reached the outside world through press statements and reports.
The KIO elite was perceived as profiting from the resources extracted for export to China and not caring about the environmental effects. The KIO appeared to be staking its hopes on full participation in a new national government to follow the 2010 elections in Burma. This did not happen and politicians who had been associated with the KIO were barred from running in the 2010 elections.
The ceasefire was strained by disappointment over Burma's constitutional process, popular outrage about environmental damage and land confiscation, and the sense among lower ranks that their core mission had always been to fight the Tatmadaw, but the issue that pushed it to the breaking point was the Border Guard Force demand. In 2009, the regime demanded that groups in ceasefire arrangements (including the KIO, UWSA and several others) must transform into Border Guard Forces (BGF) under the Tatmadaw's administration. When a small militia of the Chinese-ethnic Kokang people in northwest Shan State refused the BGF designation, the Tatmadaw invaded and occupied their territory, in a brief August 2009 conflict that sent as many as 30,000 refugees across the border to China.
During 2009-2010, the KIO adamantly refused to become a BGF, its decision backed by public meetings, and the KIA began to prepare for possible renewed war, with recruitment and training. KIA troop strength as of 2010/2011 was estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000. Most soldiers had no combat experience, having joined during the ceasefire, but many officers were veterans of pre-ceasefire warfare. The KIA usually buys weapons illegally from Chinese sources, and has always suffered from shortages of arms and ammunition, although a KIA commander spoke in late June 2011 of having "an abundance of small rockets" to deploy against the Tatmadaw.
A brief flare-up of hostility occurred in September 2010 when the KIA fired at a regime-associated helicopter intruding into their territory. In October 2010, with the KIO denied a chance to participate in the new parliament of Burma and still refusing to become a BGF, the regime's newspapers referred to the KIO as "insurgents." The KIO took this as an insult, rather than a point of pride. In their world view they were not a proud band of rebels fighting a neocolonial foe, but a legitimate local government. They were not the IRA, they were Hong Kong.
In an rare public protest, the KIO in March 2011 sent a letter to China's President Hu Jintao calling for a halt to the China-backed Myitsone dam, warning that war could break out over the locally-opposed project. The first ceasefire-breaking battle happened on June 9, near other hydropower dam construction sites on the Taping River. This was followed by a string of battles at locations stretching from Chipwi in the northeast to Sinbo in the south of the state. The Tatmadaw used heavy artillery and the KIO employed bridge destruction, ambushes and urban sabotage. Casualties appeared heavier on the Tatmadaw side during June/July.
Reportedly some northern Kachins (Rawangs) joined with the Tatmadaw against the KIO. The Rawangs, from the northernmost region of Burma, bordering Tibet, have historically been less inclined towards rebellion against the governments/regimes of Burma than have other Kachin ethnic groups.
KIO headquarters had long since shifted from Pajau to an actual town, Laiza (population between 6,000 and 10,000) right on the China border. Laiza was considered vulnerable to attack by the regime's Air Force. As of the end of July, air raids had not happened, but the Tatmadaw was directing heavy artillery against KIO headquarters.
An estimated 16,000 refugees and internally displaced people fled their homes in Kachin State in June/July because of the fighting. They suffered from illnesses and lack of food aid. Nongovernmental organizations reported that rape was being used as a Tatmadaw tactic against civilian women and girls (as has been typical throughout Burma's war zones) and reports emerged of other Tatmadaw human rights violations including forced relocation, torture and execution of prisoners of war.
Issues of Trust
The Kachin State conflict gained the attention of the outside world, described as a "threat of civil war breaking out in Burma" (although civil war has been ongoing without a break in Burma since 1949, particularly in the Karen and Shan regions in the east.) The US government made statements of concern about the conflict, the UK government met with Kachin representatives and the UN called for "all stakeholders to make every effort to avoid raising tensions."
Demonstrations calling attention to the conflict were held by Kachin exiles and supporters in India, the US and other countries. China's government was initially silent about the potentially significant impacts of open warfare on its border, then in mid-June called for restraint on both sides. China did not step in to negotiate, but did allow some refugee aid and did not permit the Tatmadaw to attack the KIA from the China side of the border, as of late July.
Burma's regime portrayed the conflict as their effort to protect Chinese interests (the Taping dam projects) from the KIO. This may also relate to a show of security for a massive pipeline project in early stages of construction, intended to bring petroleum from the Bay of Bengal through Burma to China, entering Yunnan Province in the northern Shan State. At the same time as the Kachin battles were taking place, the Tatmadaw was engaged in an offensive against the Shan State Army - North, which had also been a ceasefire group. Despite the KIO's membership in the United Nationalities Federal Council, an ethnic mutual-protection alliance, there was no sign of coordinated military efforts among the anti-regime forces.
Negotiations, brokered to some extent by members of Kachin State's urban civil society, began on June 30. The Tatmadaw's initial offer of a ceasefire was not immediately accepted by the KIO. A public meeting called by the KIO in Laiza appeared to show popular opposition within KIO territory to a new ceasefire. Issues of trust often seem to create a fissure or disconnect between the people of the KIO territory and the KIO leadership -- the KIO elite has been long accustomed to taking the regime at face value and treating its representatives with respect (exemplified by giving visiting Tatmadaw negotiators gifts of imported whiskey at a time when the KIA's own officer, Lance-Corporal Chang Yein, captured by the Tatmadaw, had been tortured and killed.) "Young turk" officers in the KIA have not been so trusting, but neither they nor town meetings make the decisions.
There has always been an imbalance in negotiations between the KIO, which is very willing to compromise, and the regime, which relentlessly plays a zero sum game. This time a ceasefire might possibly bring the KIO some major concession -- perhaps abandonment of the BGF demand or even cancellation of the Myitsone dam -- but based on historical evidence, the regime is highly unlikely to follow through on any promises it makes to the KIO. Complicating matters, reports have emerged that there are differences of opinion among the regime's generals (and ex-generals) as to whether to deal with recalcitrant ceasefire groups through negotiation or by crushing them militarily.
The KIO wants a nationwide negotiated peace settlement with all of the ethnic groups (Shan, Karen, etc.) but this proposal has so far (as of the end of July) been rejected by the regime, as in the 1990s, in favor of a separate peace for the KIO. On July 27, Burma's opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a staunch nonviolence advocate, called for a national ceasefire and dialogue between the regime and all groups currently in armed combat against it.
Sideshow or Spark
The conflict in Burma's north, while sudden and fierce, might be viewed as a mere sideshow to the larger national tensions between the long-dominant Burma military (some now governing in civilian clothes) and the long-thwarted political opposition led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the explosion of ethnic conflict in a previously pacified area is particularly significant because of resource extraction issues. The regime's lucrative deals with China in hydropower, mining, timber and petroleum all require the secure control of the north. As the Burma regime's paramount ally, arms supplier and apologist, the Chinese government could only be embarrassed and dismayed by the spectacle of Burma's 500,000-plus army being resisted by an indigenous force of 10,000 or less, as though Tolkien's Hobbits were holding their own against an Orc horde. The Burma regime's assurances of legitimacy and control became less convincing.
Additionally, cross border problems affect China's response to the conflict: an influx of refugees, the danger to Chinese workers in Kachin State (some dam site engineers were reportedly briefly held hostage by the Tatmadaw at the onset of the crisis) and the danger of shells or bombs landing on Chinese soil. The KIO elite has long had personal and business ties with some influential people in Yunnan and the value of a buffer zone like KIO territory is not to be underestimated, even between such dear friends as Burma and China.
The war in the north, should it turn out to be a brief flare-up or a prolonged "quagmire" (as The Irrawaddy phrased it) spotlights policy quandaries within Burma's regime: whether to palaver with ethnic nationalities or blitzkrieg them, whether to be completely dependent on China or not. This war also reveals friction within Kachin society between the ambitions of the KIO elite and the people's needs. The people of Kachin State have endured decades of political powerlessness. A few brave Kachin farmers still struggle to challenge land confiscation through Burma's weak court system. But power remains in the hands of men with guns.
The Kachins have always been what the British colonists called "a fighting race." A reawakened KIA may well have the guerrilla ability to make it impossible for the Tatmadaw to grab total control of Kachin State. But the KIO elite has shown during the 1994-2011 ceasefire that it can "lose the peace" by being outmaneuvered for Kachinland's real riches, the forests and rivers, while forfeiting the safety of the people. It will require enormous political skill and willpower for this not very big ethnic group in a rather large territory to keep from being marginalized and exploited again.
ONGOING NEWS SOURCES:
News items from Kachin News Group are not included in this report because Project Maje recommends reading through the specialized and detailed KNG stories in their entirety at: www.kachinnews.com
The Irrawaddy: www.irrawaddy.org
Democratic Voice of Burma: www.dvb.no
Shan Herald Agency for News: www.shanland.org
HUMAN RIGHTS INFORMATION:
Kachin Women's Association Thailand
Relief Action Network for IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and Refugees.
[RANIR, group formed in July 2011 inside KIO area]
tel. +86 189 8823 4653
Burma Rivers Network
Resisting the Flood: Communities Taking a Stand Against the Imminent Construction of Irrawaddy Dams. 2009
The Kachin Development Networking Group
Tyrants, Tycoons and Tigers: Yuzana Company Ravages Burma's Hugawng Valley. 2010
Valley of Darkness: Gold mining and militarization in Burma's Hugawng valley. 2007.
A Disharmonious Trade: China and the Continued Destruction of Burma's Northern Frontier Forests. 2009
A Choice for China: Ending the Destruction of Burma's Frontier Forests. 2005.
A Conflict Of Interest -- The Uncertain Future of Burma's Forests. 2003
Images Asia and Pan Kachin Development Society
At What Price. Gold Mining in Kachin State, Burma. 2004.
Grave Diggers: A Report on Mining in Burma. 1999.
Leach, Edmund Ronald. 1954. Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study of Kachin Social Structure. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Lintner, Bertil. 1990. Land of Jade: A Journey from India through Northern Burma to China. Bangkok: White Orchid Press.
Mirante, Edith. 2005. Down the Rat Hole: Adventures Underground on Burma's Frontiers. Bangkok: Orchid Press
Smith, Martin. 1993. Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. London: Zed.
Tucker, Shelby. 2000. Among Insurgents: Walking through Burma. London: Flamingo.
2. Background and Analysis
5. Battle Reports
6. The KIO Speaks
7. Human Rights
Chronology of the Kachin Conflict
The Irrawaddy, June 17, 2011
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has been at various points of engagement with the Burmese army since 1961 when the Kachins first demanded independence. Later, it called for Kachin autonomy within a federal system -- another aspiration which was never fulfilled. In 1994, it reached a ceasefire agreement with the ruling military leaders, this time with a call for no more than development in their region.
Since then, the mountainous terrain of Kachin State has seen much development -- the development of Chinese mega-project investments which have been introduced with the backing of the Naypyidaw government. These projects, which right groups say will extract an enormous social and environmental price from the region, have generated much animosity in KIA circles and among the Kachin public. KIA officials said they were never consulted about these projects, but have instead experienced Burmese military encroachment into their area.
After the KIA rejected last year the government's order to transform into a border guard force under the central command of the Burmese army, a tension began building. Nerves finally snapped on June 9 when fierce and bloody fighting broke out between the KIA and Burmese government forces.
Unlike previous conflicts with Burmese troops, KIA officials have now got to consider the China factor. The latest military offensive has an objective of creating a safeguard for China's dam projects in their region. But they have also called on Beijing to mediate in the conflict. In addition, the KIA continues to call for a genuine federal union.
February 1947 -- Kachin leaders signed the Panglong Agreement with the Burmese government, which laid the foundation for the creation of a fully autonomous Kachin State.
February 1949 -- Naw Seng, a Kachin military officer in the Burmese army, defected to the Karen rebels along with his battalion. He then led the first Kachin rebel army in the fight for Kachin independence.
February 1961 -- Parliament under then Burmese Prime Minister U Nu declared Buddhism as the state religion, infuriating the mostly Christian Kachin population.
February 1961 -- A group of educated young Kachin men founded the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and pledged to fight for a free Kachin republic. Intense fighting with the Burmese army ensued.
August 1963 -- Burmese Gen Ne Win, who came to power after staging a military coup, held peace talks with ethnic armed forces, including the Kachin. However, negotiations broke down after the ethnic representatives rejected Ne Win's demands, which included a condition that their armed forces must be concentrated in designated zones and their activities must be disclosed to his regime.
October 1980 -- Brang Seng, the chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the KIA's political wing, went to Rangoon and met with Ne Win for peace talks. He asked the Burmese government for Kachin State autonomy with self determination.
December 1980 -- The Burmese government rejected the KIO's demand for the inclusion of autonomous rights in the Constitution, saying the demands had not been accepted "by a vote of the people." Peace efforts broke down and fighting resumed.
July 1993 -- KIO delegates negotiated with Burmese military leaders over a ceasefire in KIA-controlled areas in Kachin State and Shan State. The KIO's major demand was regional development.
February 1994 -- The KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling military regime of the State Law and Order Restoration Council.
September 2010 -- The KIO formally rejected the Burmese government's plan to accept the Border Guard Force (BGF) plan which would subjugate the KIA under Burmese military command. The KIO called for the emergence of a genuine federal state. Naypyidaw subsequently forced the closure of KIA liaison offices in Kachin State.
September 2010 -- Burma's Election Commission rejected the registration of three Kachin political parties from running in the country's first national elections in 20 years, saying the party leaders were linked with the KIA.
May 2011 -- The KIO sent a letter to the Chinese government to withdraw its investment from a massive hydropower dam project in Kachin State, warning that local resentment against this project could spark a civil war.
June 9, 2011 -- Deadly fighting between the KIA and the Burmese army broke out near a hydropower dam project, bringing this strategic region neighboring China to the verge of a civil war.
2. BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
Kachin Reject Border Guard Force Second Time
The Irrawaddy, July 16, 2009
One of biggest ethnic ceasefire groups, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) again rejected the military junta's border guard force plan and called for autonomy in Kachin State, according to a KIO report.
The meeting between the KIO and Burmese military officials led by Maj-Gen Soe Win, the commander of the Northern Regional Command and head of the transformation committee of the border guard force for the Northern Regional Command, took place in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State and the headquarters of the regional command, on July 8.
Representatives of the KIO told the Burmese that the KIO wanted to keep its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), under its current status and rejected having Burmese military commanders in its ethnic armed forces.
It is estimated that the KIA now has 4,000 to 5,000 men forming five brigades and one infantry division. KIA troops are stationed in both Kachin State and northern Shan State. The KIO said that it wanted KIA troops to form a Kachin Regional Guard Force but not a border guard force in the future.
Apart from the border guard force issue, the KIO also called for autonomous power for the KIO in Kachin State by demanding "direct involvement" in the state's executive, legislative and judicial powers after the 2010 election.
The KIO also rejected a junta proposal for the organization to become a political party for the 2010 elections.
The KIO said it is has been the sole Kachin people's organization representing the Kachin for five decades, and it would difficult and confusing for Kachin people if the KIO were suddenly transformed into a political party for the election.
The KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military in 1994.
The July 8 meeting was the second attempt by the Burmese military to persuade the KIO to accept the border guard force plan.
At the end of April, Burmese army officials met with leaders of ethnic ceasefire groups, including the KIO, and explained the junta's blueprint for transforming the armed forces of ethnic ceasefire groups into border guard forces ahead of the 2010 elections. The KIO and other ceasefire groups voiced their disagreement with the plan at that time.
In June, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, who is secretary of the junta's Border Guard Force Transformation Committee, visited controlled areas of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) or the Kokang Army, and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) to convince them of the border guard force plan.
The northern Shan Sate based UWSA, which is the biggest ceasefire group in Burma, the MNDAA and the NDAA rejected the plan a second time. Analysts say the plan is to incorporate armed ethnic ceasefire troops into the Tatmadaw (Burma's armed forces) with the aim of weakening ethnic armed groups in the future.
Under the plan, one border guard battalion would have 326 troops including 18 officers. There would be three commanders with the rank of major. Each battalion would have two majors drawn from ceasefire groups and one major drawn from the Tatmadaw in charge of administration.
Each battalion would have a general staff officer and quartermaster with the rank of captain drawn from the Tatmadaw. Company commanders in each battalion would be drawn from ceasefire groups. Twenty-seven soldiers in other ranks, such as company sergeant majors, sergeant clerks, nurses, etc., would be drawn from Tatmadaw forces.
The deadline for the ceasefire groups to accept the plan was on June 30.
Northern tensions rise as Kachin troops fire at junta helicopter
Mizzima, September 23, 2010
Kachin troops fired shots today at a Burmese Army helicopter flying low over one of their strongholds in the north of Kachin State, amid building tensions between the ethnic group and the military junta, an officer said.
The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) troops were showing the army that they refused to be intimidated, whether the flight was sent to watch or cajole them, an officer of the group's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), told Mizzima on condition of anonymity.
"The KIO encampment is in the hills [surrounding Laiza], so, viewed from there, the height of the helicopter seemed a little low as it flew from the south of Laiza to [Kachin State capital] Myitkyina," the officer said. "So KIO troops tried to shoot it down in order to browbeat them [the junta's airborne troops]."
The incident occurred as the junta army's Northern Command is raising the ante against the KIO, which on September 1 passed the junta's deadline for bringing its armed wing under Burmese Army control within its Border Guard Force (BGF), which the KIO has flatly rejected. The ethnic Kachin group signed a ceasefire deal with the junta in 1994.
"I think the helicopter aimed to observe us, or the flight was intended to frighten us. But, local residents were not afraid. They are carrying on as usual," the officer said. The case was still being investigated by the KIO, local residents said.
Mizzima reported on Monday that the KIO had ordered gold mines in areas under its control in the north of the state to halt production, miners said.
The KIO was also moving all its furniture, equipment and documents from its Laiza office to its previous headquarters at Lai Zin Bum ("bum" means mountain in Kachin language), near the Sino-Burmese border. Similarly, local people had moved belongings across the border to China, the miner said.
Early last month, the junta imposed travel restrictions on KIO members, requiring them to report their travel plans first to Military Affairs Security (MAS) and to move only with permission of the Northern Command. The new rules also banned KIO or KIA from wearing uniform or carrying any arms while they travelled.
After that, rice trading had slowed on the Myitkyina-Bamao highway and prices of a range of commodities were rising, a trader in Laiza said.
The junta army was also practising direct saber-rattling, with troops erecting a barbed-wire barricade at their Lajayan checkpoint near Laiza, manned by Infantry Battalion (IB) 142. No one may pass through between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., a source said.
Meanwhile, the Union Election Commission (UEC) issued a notice last Thursday that said village tracts under KIO control were not in a position to host free and fair elections, set by the junta for November 7.
Other exile media were reporting today rapid and sizeable troop build-ups near KIA outposts in the state, and that residents were being forced to build fences and accommodation for the extra soldiers.
Junta Calls KIA "Insurgents"
The Irrawaddy, October 15, 2010
The Burmese junta decribed the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a cease-fire group which operates on the Sino-Burmese border, as "insurgents" in state-run-newspapers on Friday, ceasing to call them a cease-fire group which they have done since signing a cease-fire agreement with the KIA in 1994.
The state-run newspapers described the KIA as "insurgents" in a report blaming the KIA for a mine blast which killed two and injured one in Kachin State on Wednesday.
The report came amid Naypyidaw's flaring tensions with the cease-fire ethnic groups including the KIA over the Border Guard Force (BGF) plan, which ordered the groups to transform their independent militia's into a Burmese army-controlled BGF.
Five villagers from Mogaung Township, Kachin State "stepped on a mine planted by KIA insurgents" in "Kachin Special Region-2", the state-run-newspaper The New Light of Myanmar said.
Responding to Naypyidaw's usage of "insurgents," Wawhkyung Sinwa, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that it is incorrect to describe a cease-fire group as insurgents while the cease-fire remains in operation.
He added that although the ceasefire has not yet broken down into armed conflict, tension between the regime and the KIA is high. "The situation is more or less normal for us," he said, referring to the high state of tension.
Observers in Rangoon who read the newspapers were surprised by the junta's tone toward the KIA. "After reading the report, I was shocked because insurgent is a term the regime has only used for non-ceasefire groups such as the Karen National Union in the last 20 years," said an editor of a private Rangoon weekly speaking on condition of anonymity. "It also signals a potential new civil war in the country's border areas."
Military sources in Rangoon said they learned some light infantry battalions normally stationed around Rangoon were ordered to deploy in Kachin State this week. The junta also recently purchased 50 Mi-24 military helicopters from Russia for counter insurgency operations, said observers.
In late September, KIA soldiers shot at a Burmese military helicopter that flew over the KIO headquarters at Laiza, which was considered unusual since the cease-fire agreement normally deterred such acts on both sides.
After a major military reshuffle in junta forces in late August, the two main junta commanders dealing with the KIA, Lt-Gen Tha Aye, chief of Bureau of Special Operation (BSO)-1 and Maj-Gen Soe Win, commander of the Northern Regional Military Command were replaced by Maj-Gen Myint Soe of the Northwest Regional Military Command and Brig-Gen Zayar Aung, commandant of the Defense Services Academy.
The new replacement commanders have yet to hold any meetings with the KIO since taking up their appointments, said KIA sources in Laiza.
"New commanders usually come to introduce themselves and create cordial relations, but we haven't seen either Maj-Gen Myint Soe or Brig-Gen Zayar Aung," a KIO official said.
When the junta, then called the State Law and Order Restoration Council, and the KIO officially announced the cease-fire agreement, the agreement was based on three topics -- peace under a cease-fire in Kachin State and related areas in northern Shan State, economic development in the area and a commitment to work for peace across Union of Burma.
The KIA and its allies on the Sino-Burmese border such as the United Wa State Army and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA -- also known as the Mongla group) rejected the junta's BGF plan under the 2008 constitution saying it could not guarantee ethnic rights.
Meanwhile, the junta has suspended the November elections in the group's areas due to ongoing tension in the area and the prospect of being unable to win, according to observers.
The BGF tension on the Sino-Burmese border became a regional stability issue when an estimated 37,000 Kokang-Chinese refugees fled from Burma to China after the junta launched a surprise offensive against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in Kokang in August 2009. Since then, Beijing has been worried about potential conflict in neighboring border areas in the post-election period.
"For a risk-averse Beijing, it all makes for a volatile mix in an election year. At a time when China is pushing border stability in Myanmar [Burma], elections lacking participation from major border ethnic groups -- the Wa, Kachin and others -- may set the stage for potential conflict," said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, the International Crisis Group's North East Asia Project Director in Beijing in a recent article.
War looms for Kachin as junta ceasefire crumbles
Mizzima, December 7, 2010
Thomas Maung Shwe
Sixteen years after Burma's military regime reached a ceasefire deal with the country's second largest rebel group, the Kachin Independence Organisation, the KIO and the 10,000 soldiers it says belong to its armed wing are preparing for war.
Just outside of the KIO's rebel capital of Laiza in the far north of Kachin State recently, Mizzima met a group of recruits finishing their weapon's training. A 25-year-old nursing student in full battle dress was one of the many female sharpshooters at the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) firing range. With machine gun in hand she explained why she had recently enlisted: "We female soldiers must join our male counterparts in fighting because peace can't be obtained by men alone." There are about 800 women in the KIA, she said.
Tensions between the KIO and the Burmese Army have increased significantly since mid-October when the regime's official newspaper the New Light of Myanmar used the term "insurgent" to describe the KIO. Normally the regime only uses insurgent to describe rebel groups such as the Karen National Union that have refused to sign an official ceasefire agreement. This was the first time since the ceasefire began in 1994 the KIO had been so labelled by the Burmese regime.
Following the declaration that the KIO were insurgents, Than Shwe's regime sought to pressure them by severely restricting the movement of goods passing along the KIO's lucrative toll roads, which for the past 16 years have been a vital trade link between Burma and China, and an important source of income for the KIO. The regime also ordered the closure of most of the group's liaison offices throughout the rest of the state and parts of neighbouring Shan State, in territory the regime controls or areas in which the KIO has only partial authority. The offices were established to ensure the truce went smoothly and to maintain lines of communication.
The ceasefire, which benefitted both the KIO and the Burmese regime economically, appears to be on its deathbed and many observers believe it is only a matter of time before war breaks out between the KIO and the Burmese armed forces.
When Mizzima interviewed senior members of the KIO in Laiza recently, they laid blame for the souring of relations squarely with the Burmese regime and Naypyidaw's insistence that the KIA come under the Burmese military's control as part of a Border Guard Force (BGF).
On the issue of joining the BGF, Lana Gumhpan, a senior figure in the de facto government that administers KIO territory, told Mizzima: "We KIO considered the issue deeply and after consultation with our general public and … at our central committee; we came to the conclusion that the transformation of our military wing alone would not guarantee a lasting peace."
Laiza, on the edge of the Sino-Burmese border, was only a small village when the ceasefire began. It is now a bustling city, home to more than 20,000 people. At first glance, the KIO's capital looks like any other Burmese border town, with transport trucks, several hotels and schools, a thriving market with gem stores, four churches and even a golf course. Until very recently, business had been so good in Laiza there was shortage of housing and many migrant workers found it cheaper to live in China than rent in Laiza.
Recent developments have put the rebel stronghold's civilian residents on edge. Many of the people Mizzima spoke to expressed the feeling that conflict with the Burmese military was inevitable.
Five decades of rebellion
The KIO and its KIA armed wing were established in the Kachin-inhabited area of Shan State in February 1961 in response to Kachin grievances with Burma's central government then led by the mercurial Prime Minister U Nu. Overwhelmingly Christian, many Kachin were infuriated by U Nu's declaration during the April 1960 election that if elected, he would make Buddhism the state religion, a promise he fulfilled in August 1961.
The Kachin were also angered that the Burmese government had never implemented a pre-independence agreement brokered by General Aung San, father of the recently released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with representatives of Kachin, Shan and Chin ethnic groups that outlined the autonomy of those living in Burma's ethnic "frontier areas".
The February 1947 Panglong Agreement was an important precursor for Aung San's goal of Burma's full independence from Britain. Clause 5 of the deal gave the ethnic groups represented the right to local self-government and declared that Burma's central government "will not operate in respect of the Frontier Areas in any manner which would deprive any portion of these areas of the autonomy which it now enjoys in internal administration. Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas is accepted in principle".
U Nu, who took over the reins of Aung San's Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League party following the latter's assassination in July 1947, did little to actually implement the Panglong compact after Burma received independence in January 1948. His failure to live up to the promise of Panglong left the Kachin and other ethnic minorities in Burma feeling betrayed.
While talking to Mizzima, Lana Gumhpan pulled out a dusty copy of the Panglong Agreement and pointed to Clause 5, which he and many others believed if actually followed would have prevented many years of civil war in Burma. "Despite the Panglong Agreement to establish a Union state, it never turned out as we had expected and agreed upon. We the Kachin and other hill tribes were deprived of political and human rights. So eventually we took up weapons and engaged in revolutionary movements."
Kachin opposition to controversial dam project ignored
Lana Gumhpan said the Burmese junta's massive Irrawaddy Myitsone hydroelectric dam project under way at the confluence of the Mali Hka and Nmai Hka rivers in the north of the state was just the latest example of the Burmese central government ignoring the views of Burma's ethnic minorities. He said the ruling Burmese military junta had ignored both local residents' strong opposition to the projects and the KIO's concerns about major environmental damage. Thousands of people will be forced to move and almost all of the energy generated by the project will be sold to China, leaving little if any local benefit.
Kachin electoral aspirations blocked
In July, the Burmese regime's national election commission refused to allow a political party led by former KIO vice-president Dr. Manam Tuja to register for last month's national elections.
Tuja and several other senior party members had resigned from the KIO last year to pursue "urban politics". Despite the fact he had represented the KIO during the regime's national convention that drafted Burma's much-criticised 2008 constitution, Tuja and colleagues were prevented from registering their Kachin State Progressive Party or registering as independent candidates ostensibly because of their former association with the KIO.
Kachin officials and Burma watchers have said the regime's blocking of Tuja was in direct response to the KIO refusal to adopt the Burmese junta's BGF proposal.
Formerly a vocal supporter of the regime's national election programme, Tuja was extremely disappointed at his disqualification. In an interview with Burmese media in exile shortly after the election he warned: "Tension is high between the KIA and the government," and added, "These issues have been resolved through military methods for decades. More bloodshed will occur since there is little chance of a peaceful solution to these issues" – an ominous prediction that increasingly looks like it will become a reality.
War or Dialogue? Burma has to choose
Asian Correspondent, June 9, 2011
Fighting broke out for nearly three hours today morning between Kachin and Burmese troops in Bhamo District in Kachin State, northern Burma, quoting Kachin officers Kachin News Group [KNG] said.
The skirmishing was between the Burmese Army's Momauk-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 437 and the Kachin Independence Army's (KIA) Battalion No. 15, under Brigade 3. It occurred at the KIA-controlled Sang Gang Village in Momauk Township in Bhamo District, according to KIA officials at the Laiza headquarters, in eastern Kachin State.
The fighting took place close to the Taping River on the road heading to the Taping No. 1 and Taping No. 2 hydropower plants, from Myitkyina-Bhamo Highway. The two hydropower plants were constructed by the China Datang Corporation (CDT).
This morning conflict intensified since more than 200 Burmese soldiers invaded the KIA's territory and shooting at the KIA post near Prang Kadung Village, a KIA official in Laiza said. At least three Burmese soldiers were killed and six injured in the said fighting. However, only two KIA were injured, a KIA officer in the frontline said.
Yesterday (8 June), the KIA's Battalion 15 arrested three Burmese soldiers, including two officers, from LIB No. 437. They were carrying two machine guns and two pistols, said KIA officers.
A Burmese soldier with his weapon was arrested in the morning when he and his comrade entered the KIA controlled area. But, his companion escaped throwing away his gun behind. Another two officers holding two machine guns were arrested in the evening when they entered the KIA's area to release the captive soldier, added KIA officers.
The KIA officers in Laiza said all three were arrested for security reasons and negotiations regarding the captive Burmese soldiers are still taking place.
In March, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) warned the Burmese Army to bring to a halt any movement in the KIA controlled areas in Northern Shan State, said Kachin News Group (KNG) referring local military sources close to the KIA. The warning came out after a latest offensive against the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) was kicked off by Burmese army.
The notice was released by the central military command of the KIA (Dai Lawn Rung), based in Laiza, in Kachin State. According to KIA officials in Northern Shan State, if Burmese troops enter the KIA areas, they will face armed clashes.
The KIA is the second strongest armed ethnic group in military-ruled Burma. It has five brigades. Four of them are based in Kachin State. There are about 30 battalions, with over 30,000 fighters- including regular and reserved forces, said KIA.
Tensions between the Burma armed forces and ceasefire groups, the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), SSA ‘North' and the NDAA have mounted after the junta's latest deadline for the groups to remove weapons expired on 1 September last year. All sides have been reinforcing their troops after none of them accepted the junta's deal.
Small armed conflicts between the Burmese army and KIA steadily increased in the KIA's Brigade 3 area in eastern Kachin State and Brigade 2 area in Western Kachin State.
All KIA armed forces in Kachin State and Northern Shan State have been on the alert to prevent government troops' invasion into KIA territories.
On the other hand, Burma's 12 ethnic groups have made a historical accord in a conference at an undisclosed venue along the Thai-Burma border in mid-February. They reached an agreement unanimously forming an umbrella alliance called the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).
The UNFC also welcomes oppositions like the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South' that are still playing the waiting game position to become associate partners.
According to local sources, the junta also began dispatching fresh troops and munitions in Kachin as early as last November.
Some analysts believe armed conflicts possibly will widen since more ethnic armed groups refuse to accept the junta's new constitution which says Burma Army is the only military institution in the country. The ethnic groups also believe the incoming sham civilian government which loyal to new constitution will not let their basic rights or self-determination which they have been asking since 1947.
Thus, several ethnic armed groups including the KIA have already decided to defend their basic rights by holding their guns. If the new President Thein Sein government failed to solve out this delicate political question by means of political dialogue, a new all-out civil war may not be avoided.
KIA on High Alert after Overnight Fighting
The Irrawaddy, June 10, 2011
By Saw Yan Naing
Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops stationed in eastern Kachin State's Momauk Township are on high alert following several hours of fighting with Burmese government troops on Thursday, as sources report that both sides appear to be bracing for further hostilities.
The fighting broke out early Thursday morning before dawn and continued until noon, according to sources in the area. The fighting involved Battalion 15 of the KIA's Brigade 3 and Burmese Battalion 437.
More government troops have been deployed as reinforcements along a route connecting Bhamo and the state capital of Myitkyina, as well as in Momauk and areas near the KIA headquarters of Laiza since late last night, according to Laiza resident Seng Aung, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday.
A resident of Maijaya, a village in Bhamo District, where Momauk Township is also located, said: "Almost all the Kachin men in the village have gone to the area where the fighting broke out yesterday. Now there are mostly only women, children and few men remaining in the village." The male residents were likely summoned by the KIA as reinforcements, as they serve as members of a paramilitary militia under KIA command, said the resident.
"If government troops continue to cross KIA-controlled areas, majors fighting is expected. If they withdraw their troops, the situation will return to normal," said Seng Aung.
Lapai Naw Din, the editor of the Thailand-based Kachin News Group, said that the clashes on Thursday were serious because tension has been mounting between the KIA and the government over the KIA's refusal to become a border guard force under Burmese army control.
Some 500 troops were involved in the fighting -- which included mortar shelling -- on Thursday. At least three government soldiers were killed and six injured, while two KIA soldiers were wounded, said Lapai Naw Din. The KIA, which has an estimated 10,000 troops, signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1994. However, the ceasefire informally broke down following skirmishes between the two sides late last year.
On Feb. 7, an armed clash between government troops and the KIA occurred just southeast of Bhamo, another area that is under the control of KIA Brigade 3. On Oct. 18 of last year, an office of the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, was raided by government troops who arrested two KIO officials. A few days later, government newspapers referred to the KIA as "insurgents" for the first time in more than a decade and a half.
KIA 'Loses Patience' with Burmese Govt
The Irrawaddy, June 13, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said it has lost all patience with the Burmese government and is ready to resist any troop incursions into its territory.
Months of tension between the KIA and government troops finally snapped at the weekend when armed clashes broke out in Momauk Township in Kachin State, causing some 500 residents to flee their homes to the Chinese border.
"The fighting is ongoing on and is set to spread," said KIA spokesman La Na. "We have finally lost patience [with the Burmese army]. It's now a 'zero tolerance' policy."
The KIA signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1994. But tension mounted last year after the KIA refused to transform its battalions into a state militia under Burmese army command.
Clashes erupted on Thursday after negotiations broke down over a hostage situation. Fighting escalated further after government troops returned the dead body of the hostage, a captured KIA soldier, to the Kachin army.
Government forces have reinforced their positions in Momauk, bringing in several additional battalions. Sources said the government is preparing for a major military operation.
KIA sources claimed about 60 government soldiers were injured in clashes over the weekend, and were hospitalized in Bhamo.
Seng Aung, a resident in Laiza, the headquarters of the KIA, said he believed the fighting would escalate and that Chinese construction workers and engineers at Tapai dam near the Sino-Burmese border have returned home to escape the hostilities. He said that prisoners from Bhamo were sent to Momauk to serve as porters for government troops.
Government forces took over a KIA liaison office in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, on Saturday night.
Lapai Naw Din, the editor of the Thailand-based Kachin News Group, said that government authorities warned local residents in Momauk not to go out at nighttime.
Some residents have moved to safer towns while others have gone to stay with their relatives in China, said Lapai Naw Din. Many Momauk residents fled after government troops began forcefully recruiting locals to serve as porters, carrying munitions and supplies toward the theaters of battle.
During last week's clashes, at least three government soldiers were killed, including a captain, and six were injured, while two KIA soldiers were wounded, according to Kachin sources. No further details of casualties have been released since.
Meanwhile, skirmishes have broken out over the past three days between the Shan State Army and Burmese government forces in northern Shan State, according to local sources and military observers. A local resident from Seinkyawt, northern Shan State, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that a combined force of some 300 Burmese troops attacked an SSA base early that morning and that the fighting continued until 10 am.
Sein Kyi, an editor for the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News, said that the Burmese government forces had successfully captured an SSA military outpost.
Kachin armed group gives ultimatum to government to stop offensives
Mizzima, June 13, 2011
All Burmese military offensives against Kachin armed groups must stop no later than midnight Monday, according to an ultimatum issued by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
Fighting between government troops and the KIO has continued for two days with both sides sustaining casualties.
Fighting is also likely to break out in Northern Shan State, said the KIO, which prompted the KIO to issue its ultimatum, which it said was designed to prevent widespread civil war in Burma.
La Nang, a KIO central committee member, said, 'Fighting is likely to take place across the country. But there's no sign that they will stop the offensives.
'We've ordered our battalions to resist the government attacks. Their offensives are beyond the limit of our patience. During the past two days, we did not send reinforcement to Battalion 15 because we don't want the fighting to spread. We remained patient', La Nang told Mizzima.
Sources in Naypyitaw said that the offensives were ordered following a meeting in Naypyitaw, the capitol. So far, the government has not responded to the ultimatum, La Nang told Mizzima.
At least 10 Burmese battalions under the Northern Command and Military Operations Command No. 21 based in Bhamo are engaging Battalion 15 of Brigade 3 in Momauk Township in Kachin State.
Areas around KIO headquarters in Laiza are being threatened, said KIA officials. Officials of the Buga Company, which is owned by the KIO, were evacuated from the area, but the company is still in operation, according to the KIA.
From a distance of six miles, government troops fired 82 and 120-millimeter motor rounds into KIA military camps, and troops retreated to a base one mile from Bum Sen, a KIA stronghold. The KIA is currently repositioning and resisting government attacks.
Sources said three KIA soldiers and an unknown number of government soldiers were killed in the recent fighting. At least 100 people injured in the fighting have been taken to Momauk Hospital and Bhamo Hospital, said La Nang, based on reports from local residents.
At least 2,000 villagers from the area around Lweje Township have reportedly fled to Kyegaung and Larring villages in China.
'We tried to halt the fighting as much as we could, but they have launched a major offensive. We don't want war. We have to defend ourselves, but we don't like fighting', La Nang said.
Residents in the area controlled by the KIA have been warned to be on the alert. Residents around Lajayung, Madeeyang and Aungja villages have fled to Laiza, according to KIA officials.
Myanmar government troops battle rebels near China Border
The New York Times, June 15, 2011
A new 'civilian' government revives an old civil war
The Irrawaddy, June 15, 2011
It's been a long time coming, but it seems like the vaunted "peace" that Burma's former military rulers brought to much of the country over the past two decades has finally reverted to war.
Of course, we use the term "former military rulers" advisedly. The new government that has taken shape since last year's bogus election consists of the same lineup of military hardliners that ruled in the not-so-distant past. And you can be sure that the one name conspicuously missing from this list -- that of Snr-Gen Than Shwe -- is still very much on the lips of his underlings now at the helm of the new "civilian" regime.
If there was ever any doubt about this, events in Kachin State since early this week should dispel them. The return to open hostilities between the Burmese army and the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA), ending a ceasefire that has been in place since 1994, is just the latest step in Than Shwe's long-term project of "national reconsolidation"—his answer to calls for national reconciliation.
That's why this week's clashes in the northern Momauk region, near the Chinese border, should come as no surprise. As early as last year, Kachin leaders told The Irrawaddy that their refusal to buy into a scheme that would have put their troops under Burmese command as "border guard forces" probably made war inevitable.
On Monday, Kachin military commander Gwan Maw told Radio Free Asia that the conflict could turn into a full-blown civil war unless the government negotiates with the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization.
This is not an idle threat. Ever since a breakaway faction of a former Karen ceasefire group engaged in fierce fighting with Burmese troops near the Thai border immediately after last year's Nov. 7 election, ethnic tensions have been rising. Since March, Shan State has also seen renewed conflict, with troops from the Shan State Army -- including a brigade from a former ceasefire group -- engaging in a series of skirmishes and battles with the Burmese army that have claimed casualties on both sides and killed dozens of civilians.
The most disturbing aspect of all this is that the Burmese government, flush with victory on the political battlefield, seems to be pursuing its policy of crushing its ethnic opponents with renewed vigor.
But this isn't just a matter of getting on with the unfinished business of reasserting military control over Burma's hinterlands. Increasingly, these areas are becoming key to the survival strategy of the country's rulers.
It is no accident, then, that the worst clashes to occur so far have been in an area where China is building two major dams as part of a hydroelectric power plant. There have been reports that hundreds of Burmese government troops were deployed to the northern region to drive out Kachin forces after they refused to abandon a strategic base near the project. China officially confirmed that about 30 Chinese engineers from the state-owned China Datang Corporation were caught up in the conflict.
It is also no coincidence that the Burmese army's decision to go on the offensive comes just weeks after the newly installed president, ex-Gen Thein Sein, traveled to China for his first official state visit in his new role to cement his government's ties with Beijing.
One of the issues the two sides discussed was stability along their shared border, something that Beijing has been especially concerned about since 2009, when the Burmese regime routed the ethnic Kokang army, sending thousands of refugees fleeing into China. The question is, did Thein Sein get a green light from his hosts to go after the Kachin, in order to protect a project that is worth billions of dollars to China and Burma's generals?
If so, the situation looks grim indeed for the KIA, whose leaders have confided that they will be hard-pressed to hold onto their bases for more than six months if they are faced with a full-scale offensive. With somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 troops, the KIA will be grossly outmatched by the 400,000-strong Burmese army, and may be hoping that China will intervene to bring the Burmese to the negotiating table to avoid a bloodbath and a fresh exodus of refugees across the border.
But it is not only the KIA and the other ethnic armies that should be worried by these developments. The new government's willingness to resort to force is a throwback to the bad habits of the past, and only serves to confirm that Burma is still in the thralls of Than Shwe's political vision of a nation united under his thumb.
Instability Beckons in Wake of Kachin Conflict
The Irrawaddy, June 15, 2011
Since violence erupted in Kachin State on June 9, local sources claim stability in northern Burma has deteriorated rapidly with several explosions in state capital Myitgyina and the government closure of Sino-Burmese trading routes.
Officials of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) told The Irrawaddy that since Tuesday evening, Burmese authorities have closed roads from Bamo and Myitkyina to the Chinese border. Meanwhile, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the military wing of the KIO, has destroyed at least three bridges at military locations.
"Our troops reported to headquarters that, following the closure of the Bahmo and Myitkyina roads, Light Infantry Division 66 from Pyay has mobilized the frontline with our troops," said Awng Ja, an official of the KIO in Laiza.
Despite the closure of the border trading route, businessmen in Laiza said that several Chinese lorries with goods for export still crossed the border and came into Laiza in order to trade. And Chinese authorities on the border have still kept checkpoints open along Kachin State, although there is no more security surveillance.
A KIO official told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that at least three small explosions occurred in Myitkyina in the past three days. He denied that his organization was directly responsibility for the blasts but said, "However, there are many KIO militias in Kachin towns." Although the bomb blasts took place in the busy Kachin town, no casualties have so far been reported, the KIO officer added.
The KIO also said in an announcement on Tuesday that one of their liaison officials in Myitkyina was tortured and killed following his arrest the previous Thursday.
Meanwhile, sources from Burma's largest ethnic armed group, the United Wa State Army, report that the 33 Light Infantry Division bases in Sagaing and 44 Light Infantry Division bases in Thaton, Mon State, have been redeployed to Kachin and Shan states amid the fresh armed conflict.
Responding to armed conflicts in Kachin State, ethnic politicians and the National League for Democracy, led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, expressed concern about the situation and called for more dialogue towards a peaceful resolution.
"The new government should start peace talks with honesty and maturity. If the conflict becomes worse, civil war will flame," said Tu Yaw, general secretary of the Kachin State Progressive Party formed by former KIO leaders.
Aye Maung, the chairman of the Rakhin Nationalities Development Party, said that the government wants to include ethnic groups within the Border Guard Force (BGF), but the ethnic armed groups rejected this plan. "For peace, both sides must forget about these conflicts and sit down together. For negotiations, it is better that the Parliament organizes a committee with different ethnicities," Aye Maung added.
Tensions have existed between the Burmese Army and different ethnic groups, including the KIO, since the BGF plan were initiated in April 2009. Last week, tensions in Kachin State sparked into fresh fighting as the Burmese Army called for KIA troops to withdraw from the Chinese-run Ta Paing Hydropower Project in Bahmo District. In response, the KIO called for government troops to withdraw from their territory. The two sides then exchanged fire from June 9 until Wednesday afternoon.
Due to violent clashes around the hydropower site, Chinese workers shut the plant on Tuesday after the last group of 100 employees returned to China.
There has been no immediate interference from Beijing regarding the conflict in Kachin State, despite thousands of Chinese immigrants working in the area. In the past three years, Chinese government members have repeatedly called for greater border stability and the guaranteed security of Chinese citizens during meetings with their Burmese counterparts in Beijing and Naypyidaw.
Latest reports from the area suggest that two high ranking Burmese military officials travelled to China on Wednesday to discuss the Kachin conflict with their Chinese counterparts.
Despite the absense of an official response to the conflict, KIO sources reveal that Chinese border authorities have allowed children and elderly Kachin refugees to enter China.
Over the five days of armed conflict, Burmese state-run newspapers have not reported anything of the unrest. Instead of reports on the civil war, The New Light of Myanmar carried a story on Wednesday about Kachin State Chief Minister La John Ngan opening a workshop on natural disaster responses in Myitkyina.
Tatmadaw columns inevitably counterattack KIA troops for their threats and armed attacks
New Light of Myanmar [Burma regime-controlled newspaper], June 18, 2011
Government opens the door of peace to welcome those who are holding different views if they wish to cooperate with the government in mutually concerned cases for the interests of the nation and the people and run for election in compliance with democratic practices to justly gain power
Tatmadaw counterattacks on KIA just to protect its members, nation's important hydropower project without even a single intention of aggression or oppression
KIA based in Kachin State is committing deterrence to development projects of Kachin State, disturbing to the tasks, posing threats and disturbance to Chinese staff who are working at hydropower projects. On 16 April, they made threats to stop quarry works on the east bank of the Malikha River and take their permission to continue the works.
On 5 May, KIA entered Lahsa Hydropower Project on the east bank of the Malikha River and threatened Chinese staff to move to the west bank of the river within two days and to withdraw the extended camps from the east bank as quickly as possible.
In the afternoon of 8 June, KIA group called and examined a member of Tatmadaw security unit which was discharging security duty at Tarpein Hydropower Project in Kachin State and seized a rucksack with rounds of ammunition. In that regard, two Tatmadaw officers went to KIA camp to settle the issue. But they were detained by KIA without any reason.
While a military column led by the Base Tactical Operation Commander was marching to Tarpein Hydropower Project from Bhamo, KIA troops taking positions at Hsankha Camp of KIA Liaison Office and at Htonbo on the hill at the entrance to Tarpein Hydropower Project opened fires at the column. After responding to the gun fires the Tatmadaw column on 9 June took back the two Tatmadaw officers detained by KIA.
Although the Tatmadaw column informed KIA to withdrawl from its temporary camp near Tarpein Hydropower Project not later than 11 June, KIA did not follow. The Tatmadaw column inevitably attacked and occupied the temporary camp on 12 June evening.
On 8 June, members of KIA unreasonably captured a police private and a civilian from the guardhouse of Microwave Station near Keikhteik Village, Mansi township, Bhamo District.
Though responsible police force negotiated for their release, KIA did not release them. But, they freed the detainees only when the Tatmadaw column demanded the release on 12 June.
Tarpein Hydelpower Project is the joint venture project of the Ministry of Electric Power No. 1 and Datang (Yunnan) United Hydropower Developing (DUHD) Company of China. The project is an important one and the two sides have invested heavily in the project.
As KIA members disturbed and threatened Chinese experts and employees assigned to the project, authorities warned them not to cause hindrances to the project.
But the KIA did, not pay heed to the warning, instead it launched heavy weapon fire at the project from its Dunbon Outpost, made the route linking Tarpain Hydel Power Project unsafe and blew up pylons carrying cables connecting the project and Bhamo District.
Due to their threats, altogether 215 Chinese employees assigned to the project went back to China from 9 to 14 June. Fifty Chinese employees left the project on 9 June, 84 on 12 June, 53 on 13 June and 28 on 14 June respectively. The project which is equipped with four 60-MHz generators ceased to operate as from 14 June, causing a great loss to the State and the people.
Tatmadaw columns had to inevitably attack the KIA just to rescue its officers detained by the KIA without any reason and to protect high-cost Tarpein Hydropower Project, which can largely benefit the region as well as the nation. In response to the attack of the Tatmadaw, KIA blew up nine bailey bridges, 10 RC type bridges, four concrete bridges, two wooden bridges, altogether 25 bridges, which are of importance in transportation of Kachin State, from 14 to 16 June. Such destructive acts of KIA severely harm interests of the region and the nation, destabilizing tranquility of local people and seriously damaging transport facilities.
Concerning national reconsolidation, there are still personalities and organizations at home and abroad and underground organizations that are unwilling to acknowledge the seven-step Road Map and the constitution. Nevertheless, they should bear in mind that they are also Myanmar and should hold the concept that Myanmar is their motherland and the incumbent government is their own government constituted with own national races at different levels.
Chapter (12) of the constitution stated that constitution can be amended in accordance with the procedures. However, no one, on the pretext of this, should degrade the image of their country in international community as well as causing harm to people of own race.
The government has publicly announced that it would open the door of peace to welcome those who are holding different views if they wish to cooperate with the government in mutually concerned cases for the interests of the nation and the people and run for election in compliance with democratic practices to justly gain power. KIA nowadays needs to realize the actual attitude of the State.
The only objective of the Tatmadaw in launching attacks on KIA is just to protect its members and an important hydropower project of the nation without even a single intention of aggression or oppression. – MNA
Letter from Laiza: High Spirits at the Kachin Rebel Headquarters
The Irrawaddy, June 21, 2011
In Laiza spirits are high. There is a vibrancy in the air and the leadership of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), talk of their options with optimism. Many civilians have huddled into churches and makeshift refugee camps just meters from the Chinese border. They have chosen this spot because they don't trust the central government not to order an attack on civilians, but know that Naypyidaw is concerned about shelling China by accident. Those left in the city don't look scared.
The Kachin are in the honeymoon stage of war. If this turns into a full-scale prolonged war, this honeymoon will fade as the realities of war and refugees grow. However, the celebratory atmosphere in Laiza is not without warrant. I have personally seen many factors, some of which are still unknown even to specialists on the topic, that give the Kachin reason to be optimistic about their position and enable them to bargain with the central government with authority. The Burmese army has no chance of quickly wiping out the KIA as they did the Kokang in 2009.
The Kachin are known to be fierce fighters, but they are not warmongers. Even now, in the excitement of renewed fighting, one of the most frequently spoken words I hear during the long civil debates among the leaders and elders is "simsa," which means peace in their native Jinghpaw language. The Kachin are the most peace-loving, kind and tolerant people I have ever come across.
However, the Kachin cannot live peacefully without their own army under the current government. As one civilian member of the KIO's central committee told me, "There are so many gross abuses of power now, I can't image what would happen if we had no arms to create a balance."
Naypyidaw demanded that the KIO/KIA accept the Border Guard Force (BGF) plan without addressing any of the reasons the Kachin feel they need to protect themselves. In the many talks the two sides held to discuss the BGF issue, the central government never truly negotiated. It thought it had enough weapons and power to bully the KIA to accept, but in the end was unable to get its own way, which brings us to the inevitable fighting this week.
The commander of the Burmese army's Northern Regional Command, Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung, wrote a letter to the KIO under the heading, "In response to your request [for a cease-fire]," even though the KIO had never asked for a cease-fire. Before the Kachin leaders could even begin to draft a reply, they had to decide what this example of Orwellian doublespeak was actually supposed to mean. Reading between the lines, they decided that the message from the northern commander was this: "There is no meaningful dialogue to be had with us." After much deliberation and many drafts, the KIO replied, in part, that if the government wanted the fighting to stop, there was no need for a cease-fire. Simply stop your troops from entering our area and the fighting will cease by itself, they said.
This is proof that the central government is incapable of, and seemingly not even interested in, working toward a lasting solution to the deep-seated problems that have been with this unequal union from the very beginning. The KIO has asked China to step in and mediate the situation. But at this stage, they seem more convinced than ever that the "road map to disciplined democracy" was created to give directions to a dead end and waste time so that the central government could continue to rape the land and amass wealth and weapons.
Even though they appear to have lost all faith in Naypyidaw, the KIO/KIA still believe that peace will return to their homeland. The US, EU and UN can all do more to bring lasting peace to the Kachin and Burma. However, even combined, they have less influence over Burma than China does. What China will do is still not clear.
What the Kachin see as a solution is clear. As Gen Gam Shawng, the KIA chief of staff, told me: "If we get real state rights and a federal union, we will lay down our arms. It will be a clean and lasting diplomatic solution."
It is equally clear to the Kachin that the Lady in Rangoon, rather than the generals in Naypyidaw, represents their best hope of achieving the permanent peace they seek. This is probably why, at a time when Laiza had been emptied of much of its population, many of those who remained, including KIO/KIA leaders such as Gen Gam Shawng and Gen Gun Maw, took precious time away from their duties to pay their respects to Aung San Suu Kyi on her 66th birthday last Sunday.
Some 150 people attended a birthday event organized by a group known as the Democratic Force, consisting mostly of students from the '88 generation. The majority were Kachin, although there were also many other ethnic groups and Burmese at the party. After the ceremony was finished, people lined up to sign a two-meter tall birthday card for Suu Kyi. Gen Gam Shawng was the first to add his name.
It is impossible to understand how the Kachin see Suu Kyi without looking at the relationship her father, Gen Aung San, had with them. It was Aung San who convinced the Kachin to join the union. They trusted his promise of a union based on equality, a promise that was betrayed by his successors. This history has forever changed Kachin State and its people, making it difficult for some Kachin to put complete trust in Suu Kyi's promises. The fact that many now see her as a person worthy of real admiration is perhaps a signal that the KIO/KIA is willing to let go of the past and work together for the future.
Border wars risk turning back the clock 20 years
Democratic Voice of Burma, June 21, 2011
Fierce fighting in Kachin state adds to speculation that widespread civil war may not be far off in Burma. Three separate insurgencies and the potential for more to break out threaten the country's internal and border security. Also at risk are the small gains in economic and social development in the country's border regions that have been made since the beginning of the ceasefires two decades ago.
The spiral toward civil war began on election day on 7 November last year when troops from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) revolted against joining the government's Border Guard Force (BGF) plan. After briefly seizing two border towns, the group allied itself with the still insurgent Karen National Union (KNU) from which it split in 1994.
Government pressure against the 1st Brigade of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) resulted in skirmishes that progressed to an army offensive in early March. Opposed to joining the BGF, the 1st Brigade resumed guerrilla warfare and spread its operations from its central Shan state base area into northern Shan state. By 21 May it had joined forces with the insurgent Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) along the border with Thailand to become the Shan State Army (SSA).
The largest fighting to date began on 9 June when army moves into territory of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were resisted with force. Much of the hostilities are centered around the sites of two hydropower dams being built by the China Datang Corporation on the Taping River, leading some analysts to speculate the army's aims are to secure the dam sites, perhaps with tacit Chinese approval. However limited the army's aims may or may not be, KIA units to the west and south of the fighting have taken steps to prevent army reinforcements and resupply, moves that threaten to spread the conflict to other areas.
The fierce reaction of the KIA indicates the army is unlikely to repeat its rapid victory against the Kokang in August 2009. That offensive saw the virtual destruction of the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in operations that lasted only days, but which generated some 30,000 refugees and the most severe rebuke from China to date. After twelve days of fighting, the Burmese army has yet to force the KIA away from the dams.
The army has likewise been unable to decisively defeat the SSA or the DKBA after months of fighting. Instead the conflict has only grown with both groups allying themselves with other insurgent groups. Additionally, tensions created by the fighting have resulted in a revolt of other units of the BGF in Karen State.
It is unlikely, however, that the insurgents will be able to seize power. Too small to confront the army individually, their best hope is an alliance. Fifteen insurgent and ceasefire groups, including the KNU, KIA, and SSA, formed the United Nationalities Federal Council in February 2011 as a military and political alliance. It is still too early to tell what impact the alliance will have, but insurgent efforts to organize military or political alliances have historically achieved little success. They have often foundered on mistrust, competition for leadership and an inability to operationalise cooperation across the large distances separating the various groups.
Alliance or not, continued distrust of the military and a government perceived as simply a new manifestation of the previous dictatorship, together with the human rights abuses and killings that accompany the army's operations, will only fuel insurgent resolve to resist. Numerous human rights reports have extensively documented the pervasive human rights violations that accompany army counterinsurgency campaigns. Already Kachin, Shan and Karen human rights monitors have reported rape, torture and extrajudicial killings by army units.
Instead of creating the stability promised by President Thein Sein in speeches immediately after his inauguration, army operations threaten to destabilise the country, reversing whatever economic and social development has been achieved in ethnic minority areas in the past two decades. Large-scale displacement brought on by army operations and fighting will force villagers to abandon fields, livestock and personal belongings. Infrastructure will be destroyed, movement restrictions imposed and trade routes heavily regulated or closed. Already, the KIA has destroyed several bridges and the military has closed routes between Bhamo and Myitkyina and the Chinese border.
Human rights abuses attributed to the army, or the fear of them, have long been a greater cause of refugee outflows and internal displacement than armed conflict. The army's penchant for using civilians as guides and porters has been cited by refugees as major reasons for fleeing areas of potential fighting. Already, Kachin sources estimate around 10,000 people have fled to refugee camps set up by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) along the border with China.
Large refugee flows are potentially destabilising to Burma's neighbours, China and Thailand. Burma was recently listed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as the fifth largest producer of refugees in the world. Around 30,000 refugees fled to China in the wake of the Kokang offensive in 2009 and 20,000 fled to Thailand in November 2010.
Fighting close to the border also brings the risk of stray artillery shells and spillovers of fighting as insurgent and army forces maneuver for advantage. Several Thai soldiers have been killed and wounded by mortar shells and landmines along the border since November.
A further destabilising influence is the increase in drugs and smuggling likely to result as insurgent groups seek to maintain their war chests and replenish weapons and ammunition. Thailand is currently waging a drug war that began with an increased influx of narcotics as ceasefire groups sold off stocks to purchase more weapons. Jane's Intelligence Review in April reported a large shipment of weapons and ammunition originating in Cambodia to the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the possibility of the purchase of weapons stolen from Thai army armories in March 2011 and September 2010.
A spreading ethnic civil war could bring an end to the military's experiment with 'disciplined democracy.' Insurgency and Shan moves for discussions on instituting a formal federal system resulted in the military coup of 1962 and 48 years of military misrule. Increased fighting could give the military a pretext for reinstating direct military rule, a possibility enshrined in the current constitution.
Already, opposition and ethnic politicians have called for restraint and dialogue by both the army and insurgent groups. Their calls are supported by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi which was barred from participating in the elections, but still commands much support.
Recent government overtures for a ceasefire with the Kachin were perceived as insincere. Army battalions are moving in as reinforcements in all three regions and fighting is expected to escalate. Without a negotiated settlement and concessions by all sides, Burma is set to witness fighting, destruction and displacement in the ethnic states that it has not witnessed in twenty years.
Brian McCartan is a Bangkok-based freelance journalist.
Thailand needs to be concerned about fighting on the Sino-Burma border: Kachin newsman
Shan Herald Agency for News, June 21, 2011
Lahpai Naw Din, editor of the Kachin News Group (KNG), told the Thai media yesterday current fighting between Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burma Army on the Sino-Burma border should be a cause of concern for Thailand, despite a distance of some 500km from the kingdom.
"The Kachin Independence Organization / Kachin Independence Army (KIO / KIA) is a leading member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)," he said. "An attack against on member is regarded as an attack against all."
Other prominent members include Karen National Union (KNU) and Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)) along the Thai border and Chin National Front (CNF) along the Indian border. The Shan State Army (SSA) "North", another member, has been fighting since 13 March, when it was attacked by the Burma Army.
There are also two lessons to be learned from the Kachin experience, he told his listeners, among whom were reporters from the widely read Thai Rath daily, Issara and Voice of America.
"The first is that foreigners working inside Burma under joint projects could become hostages at the Burma Army's mercy," Naw Din said. The 215 Chinese workers working at hydropower plants Taping #1 and Taping #2, for example, were advised by the KIA to leave before the fighting began on 9 June. "However, the Burma Army told them not to leave and, as a result, they unintentionally became pawns for the Burma Army." The workers were later transported to the border by the KIA following a lull in the battle.
"The second lesson is that Naypyitaw will enlist the neighboring countries' support in its campaign against the ethnic movements," he said.
Thailand has won concession to construct a deep sea port in Burma's Tavoy/Dawei that will serve as a shortcut to the present roundabout passage through the Straits of Malacca.
"A better choice would be to push the Burmese rulers to honor the agreement reached at Panglong (in 1947)," he said. The agreement between Aung San, father of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, and leaders of the Frontier Areas (as non-Burman ethnic territories were then known) promised total autonomy, democracy and human rights for the Frontier Areas, who were entitled to become separate nations, according to the late Shan leader Shwe Ohn.
China has called for "restraint" and peaceful resolution. Asean and India, meanwhile, have yet to respond to the situation.
Ceasefire pacts between Naypyitaw and armed ethnic groups fell apart after the former demanded that the latter become part of the national armed forces in 2009.
Threat to peace
Mizzima News, June 23, 2011
Nyo Ohn Myint
The recent armed conflict between the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) and the Burmese army is predictable -- it has been a long time in the making.
Things started downhill with the divide-and-rule policy of dictator Senior-General Than Shwe, which led to ethnic regions with many competing groups and policies, making it that much harder to find any common ground, or, for that matter, any single group that can speak on ethnic issues.
Many promises were made by the new president, former General Thein Sein, after he took power at the beginning of this year, but he clearly has no idea how to address the role of ethnic diversity in Burma. The policy of a central, single-power government is in natural competition with the ethnic groups' desire for greater autonomy.
Without a new, effective policy, the new civilian government has little real chance of promoting meaningful economic development, including the attracting of large numbers of new investors that Burma urgently requires.
Without peace, there is a question of who will want to invest in Burma, with the exception of China, India and Thailand, neighbouring countries that see Burma's energy resources as ripe for the picking.
In fact, all of eastern Burma from north to south has the smell of imminent civil war. A European assessment firm said recently that without peace, there's no profit from investment in Burma. Stability is required -- and that's the one thing that's hard to come by right now.
For the Chinese, however, it's a different case. Peace would benefit them, of course, but their overriding concern is strategic power and positioning. That means dealing for now with the generals. Still, for local Chinese businesses in ethnic areas, conflict spells underdevelopment, in areas where any economic activity is to the good.
The new government clearly is stumbling around looking for an ethnic and economic policy, but it shows little urgency in developing one. It seems content to deal with cease-fire and non-ceasefire groups in a piecemeal, threatening way. The case of the Kachin conflict illustrates Naypyitaw's delicate dance with China. China refused to endorse the new government's military policy to wage war with the Kachin army, but the government went ahead while knowing only that they would continue their police of divide-and-rule and fight if necessary.
The Chinese are investing huge resources to build a series of hydro electrical dams. Now their workers are fleeing those projects in fear of being entangled in the new war. What is evident is the limited power of China to influence the policy of the generals who are in ultimate control.
However, some observers see the hand of the Chinese in signing off on the new war in an effort to punish the KIO for dealing with the West and moving away from their local Yunnan government across the border. The KIO has established more flexibility than ever before; it's more efficient in dealing with both Burmese and Chinese governments.
Beijing's suggestions for peace and stability are too bitter to swallow for the street-smart Burmese generals. The Chinese may feel as if they have no clear influence yet within the new Burmese government, which might make it harder for the military to rule behind the scenes at some point.
Regardless, the future looks bleak unless the new Burmese government can show signs of sincerity in reviewing the 2008 Constitution to pave the way for more autonomy for ethnic people. Meanwhile, the benefits of the country's resources continue to go largely to the military, leaving the public sector puny scraps.
At some point things will become clearer. How can China, India and Thailand really deal with a government that conducts wars with all the factions of the ethnic groups, with each and every political stakeholder? Ethnic armed forces are only a step away from targeting mega development projects if they are put under more pressure.
Such moves would force the generals' hand. So, what should it be—more fighting or following the road of reconciliation and negotiation? Time is running out, and the senior generals' war policy is on a no-win course in the long term. But so far, they show no sign of understanding that.
The author is a member of National League for Democracy- Liberated Area
Govt compromise needed to avert all-out civil war: KIA
The Irrawaddy, July 12, 2011
The phrase "independence for Kachin State" is popular these days among residents of Laiza, the headquarters of the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA), whose ongoing clashes with government troops continued until Monday, when artillery fire from the Burmese army side reportedly fell on Chinese territory.
Although KIA leaders do not use this phrase and only call for more political rights from the central government, they are now hinting at the inevitability of a major all-out war with the Burmese army, which could eventually force them to separate from Burma, if the Burmese government does not make any move to respond to the KIA's calls for autonomy, which it has been fighting for since 1963.
"We want a true federal state, but if the government uses force to deal with us, we will be unavoidably pushed behind the lines of 1948," said Brig-Gen Gun Maw, the KIA deputy military chief who is playing the principal role in current discussions with the Burmese government aimed at ending the armed clashes between the two sides.
By referring to 1948 -- the year Burma regained its independence from Britain -- he was suggesting that the country could once again be divided into two parts: central Burma, or Burma proper, and the mountainous regions predominantly populated by ethnic minorities such as the Kachin and the Shan, which were administered separately under the British.
According to a KIA draft of a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government seen by The Irrawaddy last week, the KIA will only agree to a six-month temporary ceasefire if Naypyidaw commits to a political dialogue during this period. And the KIA wants the United Nationalities Federal Council, which represents the armed ethnic groups in Burma, to play a leading role in this dialogue.
Many KIA leaders also want to see changes in the current military-drafted Constitution coming out of this possible dialogue. Asked what will happen if the government does not make any political concessions, Gun Maw said, "Wars will continue to take place throughout this region. It only depends on the government to decide. We only ask for the proper solutions."
To sound out public opinion among the Kachin people, the KIA leaders held a public discussion in Laiza on Tuesday with more than 120 representatives from different parts of Kachin State. The representatives unanimously said that a true federal union should be the goal of a political dialogue with the Burmese government, according to KIA spokesman La Nan.
While such formal talks continue to produce calls for federalism, however, on the ground, there is considerable resistance to the idea of pushing for a federal union. "What union? There was no union before Burma's independence. We lived by ourselves with our own resources," said Maj Tang Sang, a KIA officer in Laiza.
The armed clashes between the two sides, which started on June 9 near a Chinese-built hydropower power plant in northern Burma, ended a 17-year ceasefire between the Burmese army and the 10,000-strong KIA, which controls territory along the Sino-Burmese border.
Since the fighting started, relations between the KIA and Chinese officials have been relatively static. KIA officials were privately furious that Burmese troops were permitted to enter China's border areas late last month to pick up several military trucks sold to the Burmese army, giving rise to rumors that the Burmese army was planning to attack the KIA from Chinese territory.
Asked if the KIA would be compelled to restrain its future military operations due to concerns about how such actions would affect Chinese interests in Kachin State, Hkwun Nawng, the official representing the KIA in its relations with China, said, "We respect China's recent call for peaceful solutions between us and the Burmese government, but there is nothing that we won't touch simply because it is Chinese."
Meanwhile, armed clashes continue between the two sides. Since last Friday, the Burmese army has been firing artillery at the KIA's stronghold and former headquarters at Pajau, near Laiza. According to a KIA spokesman, some of the artillery fell on Chinese territory.
The renewed civil war in Kachin State has already displaced an estimated 20,000 people in Kachin State. More than 15,000 war refugees are still living in relief camps in Laiza and have not received any help from the international community since the fighting broke out early last month.
War, violence and refugees as the Kachin face Myanmar's junta
AsiaNews.it, July 13, 2011
UN calls for 'restraint' in Burma's Kachin state
Mizzima News, July 19, 2011
Thomas Maung Shwe
The United Nations is calling for restraint to be exercised in Kachin State as the conflict between the Burmese army and Kachin fighters shows no sign of ending.
"In light of recent significant developments in Myanmar [Burma], the United Nations strongly encourages all stakeholders to make every effort to avoid raising tensions that could damage the prospects of the country's implementation of its political and economic reforms," Farhan Haq, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Mizzima.
Haq was responding to questions from Mizzima about the UN stance on the recent fighting in Kachin State between the Burmese central government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said in a reply sent on Friday: "The Secretary-General and his special adviser have been following the evolving situation in Myanmar with attention, including recent reports on the activities of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD and on the situation in Kachin State."
The UN call for restraint from all sides was met with heavy skepticism from Burma opposition activists. Reached for comment, Mark Farmaner of the Burma campaign UK told Mizzima: "By calling on all stakeholders to avoid raising tensions, Ban Ki-moon appears to be blaming Kachin women for being gang-raped by the Burmese Army, and blaming Aung San Suu Kyi for being threatened by the dictatorship. The statement is a classic example of how the United Nations panders to the dictatorship instead of standing up for its victims."
According to Farmaner, "Ban Ki-moon says he wants implementation of political reforms, but the main political reform currently being implemented by the dictatorship is enforcing a new Constitution which is plunging the country into civil war, and leading to an escalation in human rights violations which break international law."
Ban Ki-moon's UN special envoy to Burma Vijay Nambiar has come under criticism by Burma activists for not being forceful enough with the new Burmese government. Nambiar, who also serves as Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, has filled in on an interim basis as special envoy since January 2010 and has only been involved with the Burma file part-time. The UN told Mizzima last month that a full-time replacement will be appointed in "due time," however the UN has not given a date for when the new appointment will happen.
Civil war looms behind Burma's local conflicts
The Irrawaddy, July 20, 2011
The fresh and fierce fighting in Burma's Kachin and Shan states is a signal that Burma is on the verge of a civil war that may ultimately involve a large percentage of the country's ethnic armed groups.
In Shan State, the Burmese Army -- using around 1,500 troops, including artillery battalions -- has launched a major offensive against the Shan State Army (SSA), which has about 1,000 troops defending its headquarters in Wan Hai, Mong Hsu Township. Injured Burmese troops were reportedly evacuated from the area to major cities using helicopters from Nam Hsan Air Force Base.
In Kachin State, the fighting is equally tough, with landmines exploding, bridges being blown up and soldiers being shot dead in ambushes. In addition, the Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) claims that at least 18 female Kachins -- aged between 15 and 50 years old -- were gang-raped by Burmese soldiers during the recent armed conflict. As a result of the fighting and atrocities, the resulting humanitarian crisis is fast getting worse, with some 2,000 more people recently forced to flee their homes.
The escalating ethnic strife facing Burma's new government is threatening both internal and border security, and stands as a stark contrast to President Thein Sein's call in April for peace and stability in the ethnic areas.
Thein Sein, it should be noted, is also the Chairman of the Central Committee for Progress of Border Areas and National Races. But despite his pledge and position of responsibility, the Alternative Asean Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma), a regional human rights group, said in a statement that Burma's "new" government has failed to take any meaningful steps towards political, legal and economic reforms.
In a five-page brief, ALTSEAN-Burma said that Burmese troops continued "to attack, kill and rape ethnic civilians," while over 2,000 political prisoners are still being detained under atrocious conditions.
"If this is Thein Sein in his first 100 days, one dreads to think what the rest of the year is going to be like for the people of Burma," said ALTSEAN-Burma's coordinator, Debbie Stothard. "His actions and policies seem to be exactly the opposite of the promises he made."
Armed conflicts have been a permanent challenge for Burma since the country won its independence from Britain in 1948. But a series of ceasefire agreements, signed following the collapse of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in 1989, brought open conflict with ethnic militias to a halt.
Since then, the ceasefire groups, such as United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), have existed in uncomfortable peace with the Burmese army, maintaining self-administered fiefdoms in the areas under their control.
Over the past years, however, the situation has worsened following the introduction of the Burmese military leaders' scheme to extend its control over the ceasefire ethnic groups. The so-called Border Guard Force (BGF) plan -- tied to the timing of last year's election -- threatened to shake a fragile status quo in the ethnic areas, and the fighting many had predicted has now become a reality.
Some observers said that the huge investments by Burmese and Chinese businesses in both infrastructure and hydropower dams in the ethnic areas is a contributing factor -- if not the root cause -- of the renewed conflict.
They said that because there is no guarantee that the mega-projects will bring an improved standard of living for the average citizens of the border states -- while the military and elite who rule the country will clearly benefit from the resulting foreign direct investment dollars and export earnings -- the resentment of the local ethnic groups has boiled over into armed conflict to protect their turf.
In addition, the Burmese government is using the threats to their projects as an excuse to attack the ethnic armed groups and attain by military force what they could not achieve by coercion with respect to the BGF.
"By using the protection of the dams to justify military action, Naypyidaw tries to cover up its intention to eliminate the KIA and enlist Chinese support to squeeze the armed group out of its traditional territory," noted Yun Sun, a foreign policy analyst in Washington D.C. who was a Beijing-based China analyst for the International Crisis Group from 2008-2011.
In an article published by CSIS Pacific Forum, she also said, "The KIA sees China's desire for border stability and dam safety, and is using the conflict to force China into mediating a settlement." However, the military approach is risky for both sides, she argued.
By jeopardizing China's border stability and vested interests, Naypyidaw may invite pressure from and intervention by China in its ethnic affairs, which may not work in Naypyidaw's interest.
And Yun Sun pointed out that KIA has even more at stake, because China has accused Kachin groups of harassing and blackmailing Chinese hydropower companies. Unlike the UWSA, which has refrained from colliding with the Burmese military, the KIA is openly challenging China's bottom-line interests, and as a result is being seen as deliberately breaking the status quo and rejecting Naypyidaw's offer of a ceasefire.
This may already have backfired on the KIA, because while the KIA had reached an agreement in April 2010 with other Sino-Burmese border-based groups such as the UWSA, Shan State Army (SSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) to support each other if attacked by the Burmese Army, heavy pressure from China prevented the UWSA from helping in the Kachin and Shan state fighting.
Thus, KIA and SSA have formed an alliance with the ethnic Chin, Karen, Karenni and Mon armed groups that are based on the Thai-Burmese border, forming an umbrella alliance called the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).
"Amidst our differences and diversities over the past five or six decades, we have managed to establish an alliance through creating a common platform on which we all can come together and share as a family. We all agree to work together towards bringing democracy and federalism into Burma," said Colonel Solomon of the Chin National Front (CNF), a member of the UNFC, according to the Chinland Guardian, an ethnic Chin news agency.
In a statement issued on February 17, the UNFC said that its basic principles and aims include working for better recognition of the ethnic armed groups, for ethnic equality, rights and self-determination, and for a genuine democratic federal Union of Burma.
Recently, ethnic leaders meeting with EU officials in Bangkok called for the EU to broker political dialogue between Burma's government and its ethnic groups.
"All the government troops will have to retreat to their former bases if there is a ceasefire," said Nai Hang Thar, the secretary of the New Mon State Party. "Also, the government must declare ceasefires with all the ethnic armed groups in the country, not only in Kachin State."
Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the Karen National Union, said, "We always welcome dialogue. But the dialogue must involve all ethnic groups, not on a case by case basis. Our aim is to establish a federal state."
Does Burma launch colonial war in Kachin state?
Oped News, July 21, 2011
The fighting between Burma's armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) increased soon after the Kachin people abandoned new ceasefire talks with the government at Laiza on July 12 and 13.
All at once, the war has gradually broadened in three main areas in Kachin State, the Sinbo area in Mohnyin Township, Manmaw (Bhamo) District and Waingmaw Township, referring local people Kachin News Group said.
On July 16, when government troops tried to penetrate into Laiza, the KIA's restricted area, the fighting broke out. It was the largest battle of the week, said the Kachin News Group's reporter in Laiza.
KIA captured seven Burmese soldiers, including a captain after two days of fighting at Hka Ya, near the Kachin headquarters at Laiza, in Burma's Northern Kachin State. The captive soldiers are from Infantry Battalion No. 21, based in Myitkyina. They were captured with 19 weapons, including two machine guns, a 60 mm mortar and the main military communication device, according to KIA officials in Laiza.
Fighting has happened in another location in Kachin State close to the Shan State border since July 16, a local resident said. A Burmese Army deputy battalion commander and three soldiers were killed during the conflict with the KIA in Manje Township, in Manmaw District, in Kachin State, KIA officials said.
The Burmese soldiers were from the Light Infantry Battalion No. 348 based in Mong Mit. They were killed during fighting with the KIA Battalion 12, led by Major Zau Gam, which is based in Manje (Mansi) Township, southern Manmaw (Bhamo) District, according to KIA officials in Laiza headquarters. The KIA also captured three guns carried by dead soldiers, KIA officials said.
A KIA soldier was killed yesterday by Burmese troops led by the dead-deputy commander, after the KIA fighter was captured with his gun, according to KIA Battalion 12.
Besides, the Burmese government has been driving a wedge into ethnic factions. The government deploys quite a lot of Kachin soldiers from pro-government militias and its Border Guard Force (BGF), in the civil war against the KIA in Kachin State and Northern Shan State, sources from Kachin militias and the BGF said.
Sixty militiamen from the Rebellion Resistance Force (RRF), based in Hkawng-lang-hpu, in Puta-O District, led by Tanggu Dang, a.k.a. Ah Dang, have been deployed to KIA strongholds near the China border, in eastern Kachin State, since June, sources close to the militia group said.
According to sources close to the Burmese Army, the Burmese government is going to start a full-blown maneuver against the minority Kachin army in the country's north after losing recent battles.
In Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, tanks and war planes are preparing for the offensive against the KIA, which has bases around Kachin State and Northern Shan State, said Myitkyina residents. Fuel, arms and ammunition have been stockpiled at the Northern Regional Military Command, according to local military observers.
Burmese troops are currently in action in eight townships - Mohnyin, Myitkyina, Waimaw (Waingmaw), N'mawk (Momauk), Manje (Mansi), Sumprabum, Hpakant and Danai -- said KIA officials in Laiza headquarters.
The KIA's 4th Brigade and its five battalions are based in Muse, Kutkai and Lashio In Northern Shan State. Burmese troop has been reinforcing significantly in KIA 4th Brigade's area since early July, as said by local witnesses.
According to Burmese military sources, on July 18, high level military summit was held in Naypyidaw, Burma's capital, followed by a regional military meeting at Northern Regional Command, in Myitkyina, the next day.
The key agenda of discussion in the two meetings concentrated on the offensive against the KIA and all remaining minority armed groups which rejected transforming into the government- controlled Border Guard Force (BGF), added the sources. It was alleged that the war plan was ordered by two top military leaders, Senior General Than Shwe and Vice-Senior Maung Aye.
In hope of setting up political dialogue, the KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the then junta on February 24, 1994 and supported the military-favored 2008 constitution. However, no political dialogue happened in the 17-year ceasefire time and the KIO was squeezed transforming into the government-controlled Border Guard Force (BGF) before the November 7 election.
The latest series of armed clashes in Kachin state have prompted observers to believe that purposeful war in the border regions may not be avoidable.
The Thein Sein government seems to be unenthusiastic to end political and civil contradictions in ethnic regions. So, it is clear that Thein Sein government is not heading toward democracy. Instead it is attempting to colonize the ethnic states ferociously.
Don't tread on the KIA
The Irrawaddy, July 22, 2011
"When we were young, we stepped on jade stones when we walked, found gold nuggets when we panned the rivers and saw tall teak trees when we passed by the forests," said the Rev Lazum Tuja, a middle-aged ethnic Kachin and Christian priest, in a March sermon.
"But now, all of this is gone from Kachin State, mostly to China," he told his congregation. "Since we are being looted of all our possessions, this is the dark age of the Kachin people."
Lazum Tuja's emotional sermon reflected the frustrations of his flock in the resource-rich Kachin State of northern Burma. Over the past two decades, the Kachin people have seen the depletion of their natural resources due to the growth of massive development projects conducted by Chinese companies with the support of the Burmese government. They have also experienced the consequent displacement of large numbers of local people and negative environmental impact on their communities.
Most of this has occurred since 1994, when the Burmese army signed a ceasefire agreement with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the second strongest ethnic armed group in Burma with an estimated 4,000 troops. The KIA has been engaged in an armed struggle for Kachin autonomy since 1961.
During the ceasefire, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, put its emphasis on infrastructure development in Kachin State and temporarily set aside its aspirations for autonomy at the request of the former military regime, which argued that political issues could be resolved once the new "civilian" government was in place.
On the surface, the ceasefire brought relative peace to a region previously scourged first by fighting between the Allied forces and the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, and later between the Burmese army and the Kachin rebels, who are renowned in Burma for their fighting skills.
But it was peace without a meaningful political solution, and so the Kachin people were in a powerless position when the Burmese government began forcing them to relocate en masse without any proper compensation --leaving behind their livelihoods, culture and ancestral homes -- to make way for Chinese state-owned companies such as China Power Investment to build massive hydropower dams across Kachin State. To make matters worse, much of the electricity generated from these dams will not be for the consumption of the Kachin people, but for export to neighboring China, and the revenues from the projects will to go into Naypyidaw's coffers.
As a result, there has been widespread local resentment against the Chinese-led dam projects in Kachin State, the most prominent being the Myitsone Dam -- one of the largest hydropower dam projects in the world which is currently under construction at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River. To add fuel to the fire, there has was has been escalating tension between the Burmese army and the KIA since 2009, when Naypyidaw issued its order for the KIA to join the government's Border Guard Force (BGF).
The BGF plan was intended to place ethnic militias like the KIA and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the country's strongest ethnic armed group, under the central command of the Burmese army. The Burmese government set a number of deadlines for the KIA and UWSA to accept the BGF, but each repeatedly rejected the plan.
In Kachin State, the expiration of the BGF deadlines loomed large not only on the military front, but also on the political front. Kachin political parties were banned from joining the election on grounds that their leaders were linked with the KIA, whereas the ethnic political representatives from Shan, Mon and Arakan States were allowed to participate and won seats in the new Parliament.
When the election brought forth a "civilian" government led by former military generals, it was clear to the Kachin leaders that the new government would not make the political compromises that the former junta chiefs had led them to expect. In addition, the mostly Christian Kachin population were saddled with a Buddhist Kachin chief minister in their state, a man who represents the government-backed United Solidarity Development Party that controls Parliament.
Soon after the election, the Burmese government ratcheted-up the pressure on the KIA, forcing it to shut down its liaison offices in urban areas in Kachin State and then ordering the withdrawal of KIA troops from the area near the hydropower plant that Chinese interests are constructing on the Tapaing River, a tributary of the Irrawaddy, in Bhamo District bordering China's Yunnan Province. KIA officials were indignant about being ordered to leave areas where they have been active for decades, and took it as a sign that the Burmese army was poised to launch an all-out offensive against its troops.
On June 9, after the KIA refused to move away from the areas near the hydropower plant -- which is also only a short distance from China's strategic oil pipeline running from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province -- the two sides exchanged gunfire near the plant, effectively ending the 17-year-old ceasefire and forcing Chinese workers to return home. Further armed clashes ensued in the following days, with bomb explosions reported in major towns in Kachin State.
Analysts believe, however, that this latest conflict -- which occurred only a couple weeks after Burma and China announced the establishment of a "comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership" during Burmese President Thein Sein's visit to Beijing in March -- could not have come as a shock to China, as happened in 2009 when the Burmese government launched a surprise offensive against a small Kokang ethnic militia that drove at least 30,000 war refugees into China.
In 2009, there were not many Chinese investments in the Kokang area and China publicly reprimanded Naypyidaw for creating instability at its border. But this time, China seemed almost looking for a fight, or at least was not adverse to one, and a week after the conflict began it merely called for "restraint on both sides."
Dr. Zarni, a Burmese visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, described the conflict as "a war of business which transcends ethnicity."
"This has very much to do with territorial expansion and development projects by China and the Burmese army, which only represents the Burmese ruling elite, not the Burmese public," he said.
This piece is a summary of Ba Kaung's article that appears in The Irrawaddy's e-magazine. To read the full version visit: http://issuu.com/irrawaddy/docs/irr_vol.19no2_june2011_issuu/10?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed
We Hope the Last Kachin Alive Continues to be Kachin
The Irrawaddy, July 22, 2011
The Rev. Pungga Ja Li is a local Kachin historian and the author of several books on Kachin customs and culture. He is now living in Laiza, a town in Kachin State near the Chinese border that is under the control of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is currently engaged in renewed fighting with Burmese government troops in the north of Burma. In this interview, conducted by The Irrawaddy reporter Ba Kaung in Laiza in early July, Pungga Ja Li reflects on the Kachin leaders' decision to join with the Burmese majority a year before Burma gained its independence from British rule in 1948, and shares his views on the current armed clashes and the future of the Kachin people.
Question: How do you view the renewed conflict in Kachin State?
Answer: Apparently, this is a cloudy period for all of us. But this is good in a sense that many Kachins now remember God. Many, including the KIO leaders, are now saying prayers, and we are becoming more united within us. We are now praying for God's support, but he sometimes can be cruel for the sake of our maturity.
Q: Here in Laiza, there is talk that the Kachin made a mistake in joining with the Burmese majority when their leaders signed the Panglong Agreement. What is your opinion on this?
A: Many Kachin leaders in those days disagreed with Panglong, except Sama Duwa Sinwa Nawng and Zauring. The Kachin leaders wanted to stay under British rule for five more years and only afterward wanted to establish the Kachin State as an independent state. But since his own grandfather was killed by the British soldiers, Sama Duwa did not want to deal with the British any longer -- he even slapped the ground and said that if he made a mistake, he would get struck by lightning from the heavens. That's how he won the trust of fellow Kachin leaders and signed the Panglong Agreement.
Otherwise, we would have been on our own all along and would never have had anything to do with the Burmese. We have lived under our rule -- the rule of Duwas. But even if we made a mistake, the Panglong Agreement itself is a good treaty, I think, with all the guarantees for us though they never materialized into realities.
Q: Do Kachins feel betrayed by Aung San, who organized the Panglong Conference? What is your personal view of his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi?
A: I don't know what Aung San would have treated us to if he had lived. But he came to us for Burma's independence and years ago his daughter came to us again for Burma's democracy. I think Suu Kyi is a good leader, but when it comes to our affairs, she would only walk away with another Noble Prize but would never be able to come to our help.
Q: Do you regret the KIA's ceasefire with the government in 1994, given that it has not produced any political results for the Kachin.
A: In 1994, we hoped to hold discussions with the government officials for a political solution. But as you know, those discussions were more about chatting over drinks and meals -- those discussions were never meaningful enough. On the other hand, the Kachins forgot to prepare the military side. Many forgot gun-shooting lessons. Only now, they are all alert again. They did not really know their enemy well.
Q: Do you think the KIA should sign another ceasefire agreement with the government at this point? What about calls for independence?
A: Meaningful discussions must come with the ceasefire, which will result in self-autonomy which has long been our demand. There are some talks about this call for independence within the leadership of the KIO. We have long wanted to walk towards that direction. Even if all of us are killed by the government army in consequence of that, we'd hope that the last Kachin who remains alive continues to be a Kachin, not a Burmese. But one thing that restrains us from moving in this direction is that our elders decided to stay with the Burmese -- this agreement we should not break, I think.
Q: How strong is anti-Burmese sentiment among the Kachin people?
A: When we refer to the Burmese, by that we mean a group of leaders, not the Burmese population. But in terms of culture, we have been slowly engulfed by the Burmese ways. Culturally, we have been forced to become bankrupt under the Burmese rule. We are now left with the Burmese culture only. Our culture has been lost over time. When you become bankrupt, you start borrowing the culture of others, which is Burmese in this case. Burmese culture is good for the Burmese of course. If I were Burmese, I might like such an idea that the minority groups in Burma are forced to assimilate with the Burmese majority and get rid of their identities. But the problem is we are not Burmese, and the majority don't seem to understand that our culture has its own values.
For example, the crossing over the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State's capital of Myitkyina has long been called as Ninggawn Hkrai Wa among us, but when a bridge was built by the Burmese government, it was named Bala Min Htin, the name of a Burmese hero, which does not make sense to our Kachins.
Q: Didn't you face the same sort of cultural imposition under the British rule?
A: Of course, we have become Christians when coming into contact with Western missionary groups. But our previous faith in animism has many things in common with Christianity. Only after we have lived under the Burmese rule, our own style of ruling with Duwas has disappeared and then we lost our state. But the disappearance of Duwas must also be blamed on our own Kachin leaders as well. Those leaders, as you see, also run away at the sound of gunfire. There were many Duwas up until 1961, when the KIA is founded. It was wrong that those Duwas did not become part of the KIA leadership. We are now left with culture only, which means everything to us. Culture represents our identity as a people and it is our religion too. We are trying to promote our own culture.
Q: What is the future of the Kachin people as a whole?
A: Before we can successfully resist the rule of the government, we have to fight with layers of its proxies. For example, some proxies will be Rawang, Lashi, etc., which are the smaller ethnics in our Kachin State too. Whether we like it or not, we will be forced to fight with those proxies. Until we have fought them off, we will not be able to hit the target. But one sure thing is we should no longer take the injustices lying down and we should stand up for our rights.
Q: There is talk that the KIA will be able fight a successful guerrilla war with the government troops should any political talks fail to take place. How do you think this would play out?
A: Yes, it is true. When the Burmese government troops came in, they needed trucks and porters who would carry the weapons in the jungle. But for us, we don't need them. We only need to provide a packet meal and a lighter to our soldiers, who would then be ready to fight with the government soldiers. In terms of weaponry, we are quite inferior. But we only regret that we have not taken good strongholds like those of the UWSA (United Wa State Army, the largest ethnic armed group in the east of Burma). There are very good places to build such strongholds in our Kachin State, which we have not prepared for war due to our ignorance.
KIO warns China: Myitsone Dam could spark 'civil war'
Mizzima, May 2, 2011
Thomas Maung Shwe
In an open letter sent to Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has asked China to stop the planned Myitsone Dam to be built in Burma's northern Kachin state, warning that the controversial project could lead to civil war.
The English-language letter dated March 16 but only recently made public and obtained by Mizzima states that the KIO 'informed the military government that KIO would not be responsible for the civil war if the war broke out because of this hydropower plant project and the dam construction'. The letter is signed by KIO chairman Lanyaw Zawng Hra.
As the letter notes, relations between the Burmese regime and the KIO have taken a turn for the worse. 'Since September 1, 2010 when the Myanmar military government declared that [it] would deal with KIO as it did before [the] cease-fire agreement in 1994, the communication and cooperation between the KIO and [the] Myanmar government have halted'.
Myitsone Dam is the first of seven dams planned on a tributary of the Irrawaddy River to harness the hydropower of Burma's largest river.
China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), a state-owned electric company is leading the construction and financing of the dam which is set to be built at the confluence of the Mali Hka and Nmai Hka rivers, a location sacred to many Kachin. For the project, CPI has joined with Burma's state power utility Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) and the Burmese conglomerate Asia World.
Dam threat to people and environment
The 152-metre high Myitsone Dam is the first in a series of seven on the Upper Irrawaddy that according to environmentalists will irreversibly change the lives of millions of people who live downstream, including in the Irrawaddy delta, which is the source of most of Burma's rice production. Chinese engineers operating the dams will have control over water levels in Burma's most important river, significantly altering transport, fishing and farming patterns that have been in existence for centuries.
CPI, Asia World and the Burmese regime have pressed ahead with plans for the Myitsone Dam despite widespread opposition from environmentalists, activists and local residents who will be the first affected by the dam. While the KIO has previously opposed the Myitsone Dam, the language contained in Lanyaw Zawng Hra's letter to the Chinese president is unprecedented in its criticism of the project.
While major armed hostilities between the KIO and the Burmese regime have yet to break out since Naypyitaw downgraded relations with the KIO to a pre-truce status, the 1994 cease-fire agreement appears all but dead. A telling sign of the policy change is that Burmese state media now refers to the KIO as 'insurgents'.
The letter to China states that the Burmese regime's Northern Command in Kachin State recently told the KIO that it will press ahead with 'security concerns and other necessary procedures will be launched in the above-mentioned six dam project location'. The letter continues, 'Myanmar military troops will not be allowed to invade the KIO area' during the current situation.
The Chinese government has been on friendly terms with the KIO and for decades China has allowed the KIO to operate on their border with Burma in exchange for access to the natural resources in territory the KIO controls. Analysts, however, point out that ties between China and the KIO are not as strong as between Beijing and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Burma's largest armed rebel group and the successor to the Burmese Communist Party which controls a large part of Shan State south of the China-Burma border.
The London-based Financial Times reported in January that according to foreign diplomats in Beijing, KIO leaders visited Beijing several times last year to hold meetings with the Chinese government. Given the scale of CPI involvement in the upper Irrawaddy hydro-electric project it is very likely this was one of the key items on the agenda.
KIO's long time opposition to dam
Reached for comment on its letter to China, the KIO deputy chief of foreign affairs, James Lum Dau, told Mizzima, 'We have opposed this dam for a long time'. He added that the KIO is not totally opposed to dam construction 'if they are willing to do smaller dams, that would be fine'. He said the size of the Myitsone project and the implications it has for such a huge number of people living downstream makes the dam totally unsuitable.
Noting that the Myitsone area is a key part of the Upper Irrawaddy, Burma's largest and most important river, James Lum Dau added, 'This is not only a matter for the Kachin but for all the people who live along the river'. James Lum Dau said he and other KIO representatives have told the Chinese government that the Myitsone has implications for 'millions of people' in Burma and therefore should not proceed as planned.
Environmental activists with the Burma Rivers Network, a coalition comprised of organizations representing various dam-affected communities in Burma and one of its members, the Kachin Development Networking Group, have reported that the creation of the Myitsone's dam's reservoir will flood an area larger than Singapore and will displace scores of villages with an estimated population of around 15,000 people while also destroying ecologically sensitive areas.
Since reports about the Upper Irrawaddy dam project first surfaced activists and local people immediately affected by the dam have urged the KIO to take a stronger stance against the project. The KIO chairman's letter to China clearly indicates that public pressure has shaped the KIO view of the dam. Urging a rethink of the project, the letter states, 'We also sense that the livelihood of the local people should be considered in a long-term process rather than in a short time'.
National League for Democracy also opposes dam
In addition to the KIO, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has also come out against the dam. In an interview conducted with Mizzima in January, NLD cofounder Win Tin said he worried ramifications of the project would lead to increased ethnic tension in a country wracked by decades of civil war and ethnic conflict. Win Tin said he feared Kachin people affected by the project 'may not be able to discern that this is a project imposed on them by the SPDC and does not represent the will of the majority of Burma's people'.
CPI's partner in the project, Asia World, is controlled by Stephen Law and his family and according to reports the firm will receive a lucrative profit from the dam project. Law's father, Lo Sit Han, the chairman of Asia World, has been labeled a 'narco warlord' and linked to money laundering by the US government.
While the KIO indicated in the letter that they are not totally opposed to the other six dams set to be constructed on the Upper Irrawaddy, with regards to those dams, it said, 'We have also informed Asia World Co. Ltd. to make a decision only after assessing the consequences of the dam construction'. This suggests they want to see the results of a social and environmental impact study before plans for the dams move forward.
Majority of electricity generated to go to China
An article in the industry journal Power in Asia published last September said that the massive seven-dam project on the Upper Irrawaddy will generate a combined capacity of 16,500 MW, slightly less than the present 18,200 MW generating capacity of China's huge Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest dam.
However, the benefits of the dams for Burma appear to be limited to royalties for the Burmese government. According to an article in China's state-controlled Kunming Daily in October 2008, when the project is finished the 'majority of the electricity' generated by the dams will be exported to China.
Bomb blasts at dam site raise tensions
On April 17, 2010, a series of at least 10 separate bombs exploded at the Myitsone Dam construction site. The blasts were reported to have injured at least one Chinese worker and destroyed several temporary buildings and vehicles owned by Asia World.
Shortly after the explosions the Burmese regime arrested more than 70 local people. The majority were affiliated with the KIO youth wing, the Education and Economic Development for Youth. The KIO denied any responsibility for the bombs and eventually most of the people jailed in an investigation were freed.
Dam completion not possible without KIO cooperation
As the KIO letter to China points out, previous work on the Myitsone dam project performed by CPI and Asia World took place after the Burmese authorities explicitly asked the KIO for permission to send engineers and other staff to the area controlled by the KIO. This was made possible by the liaison offices the KIO had established in Burmese regime territory. However, all cooperation between the KIO and the Burmese regime has ended.
In late 2010, the Burmese regime ordered the closing of most of the KIO liaison offices throughout the rest of Kachin State and parts of neighboring Shan State, in territory the regime controls or areas in which the KIO has only partial authority. The liaison offices were established as part of the cease-fire agreement to ensure the truce went smoothly and to maintain lines of communication.
As the letter noted, 'The upstream areas north of the Mali-Nmai Dam Project are the locations where KIO military centers are stationed'. Given the strategic location of the area and the importance it has to the Kachin people, it is unlikely that the KIO will give up their territory without a fight.
Chinese Dam Workers Allowed to Return
The Irrawaddy, June 14, 2011
The Burmese Army has allowed the final 30 Chinese engineers at Tapai hydropower station to return home as fighting with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) intensifies.
Seventy Chinese workers and engineers fled the area as soon as hostilities commenced, but the last 30 have only just received permission to return to China on Tuesday as KIA troops surround the site.
The return was negotiated between Kachin leaders, the Burmese government and Chinese authorities as the route over the Sino-Burmese border passes through KIA-held territory.
The Burmese government has brought in additional troops to Bhamo District in Kachin State, northern Burma, as serious fighting continues with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), claim local sources.
More than 20 government trucks have arrived in the area carrying soldiers and prisoners -- the latter to be used as forced labour porters or human minesweepers in the battlefield, according KIA spokesperson La Na.
He added that the Burmese government has also reinforced its troop placements along another route near Laiza -- headquarters of the KIA -- by the Sino-Burmese border.
Residents including government staff in Lwaigyai, also on the same frontier, have fled into China fearing a major armed conflict. Government troops have set up camp in the area complete with artillery launchers.
The KIA has also strengthened its frontline positions after the government ignored demands to withdraw troops from ethnic Kachin-controlled areas, said La Na. All KIA troops have been ordered on alert and to prepare the battleground with the destruction of Nam Hpak Hka Bridge a possible tactic, he added.
To hinder government reinforcements, KIA soldiers destroyed a strategic bridge at around 3a.m. On Tuesday. The bridge was located over Nam Hpak Hka river and was used by government supply trucks. "Our troops destroyed it because they [government troops] carry ammunition and weapons over this bridge. It stopped them from coming to reinforce their troops," explained La Na.
The bridge leads to Taping River where Burmese and Chinese engineers are constructing the hydropower dam. All Chinese engineers except the current hostages have been sent home for their own safety.
KIA soldiers also destroyed a government weapon store in Momauk, Bhamo District, while shelling also decimated a Burmese Army battalion in the area.
Residents in Bhamo report than dozens of injured Burmese soldiers are being treated at the town hospital. Around 30 doctors from Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State, were reportedly asked to transfer to Bhamo, according to KIA sources.
"We heard this morning that some 16 Burmese government soldiers were injured during Monday's fighting in Momauk," said La Na. He added that two KIA soldiers have been killed and one injured since June 10.
Fighting first erupted on Thursday after negotiations broke down over a hostage situation. The clashes then escalated on June 11 after government troops returned the dead body of the hostage, a captured KIA soldier, to the Kachin army, said La Na.
Seng Aung, a Kachin living in Laiza, headquarters of the KIA, said the tensions finally turned into violence because that the government wants to gain full control of areas near Tapai hydropower dam for security reasons.
The KIA in turn demanded that the government ceased attacking Kachin forces, stopped its military operations and withdraws its troops from KIA-controlled areas. However, there has so far been no response from Naypyidaw, said La Na. "If they offer us an alternative, we will cooperate with them in order to achieve peace. We always keep the door open for peace," he said.
The KIA signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1994. However, the agreement informally broke down last year after sporadic fighting broke out. The KIA also refused to transform its battalions into a state militia "border guard force" under Burmese Army command.
Energy projects 'fuelling' border fighting
Democratic Voice of Burma, June 16, 2011
The Burmese government's campaign to rout armed ethnic groups along its northern border has at its heart the goal of securing areas around lucrative China-backed hydropower projects, environmental groups claim.
Two of the main flashpoints over the past week are in southern in Kachin state, where the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) controls territory close to the Shweli and Taping dams. The KIA recently ended a 17-year ceasefire with the Burmese government, sparking heavy fighting on 9 June.
Nine dams financed by Chinese companies are being constructed in Burma's northernmost Kachin state, according to Burma Rivers Network. It said that the Taping fighting follows a warning letter from the KIA that if construction of the controversial Myitsone Dam in Kachin state proceeds, civil war will break out.
"Mega dams in Burma have severe negative social, economic and environmental impacts while the majority of electricity generated is exported to neighbouring countries or used by the military," said BRN. "Most of the dams are located in ethnic states and allow the expansion of Burma Army control into these areas."
The KIA has destroyed several roads and bridges close to hydropower sites, which are deeply unpopular amongst many civilians who are often the victims of forced relocations but who see little reward from the ventures.
Burma's relationship with China to an extent hinges on these energy projects, thus necessitating the need for the Burmese army to secure territory surrounding them.
Fighting has escalated in Kachin, Shan and Karen states since late last year following the refusal of armed groups to assimilate into the Burmese army.
In March, central Shan state witnessed several clashes between Burmese troops and the Shan State Army, whose northern faction also recently ended a 15-year truce with the government. The epicentre of the fighting was close to the town of Hsipaw, where the highly lucrative Shwe gas pipeline will run through en route to China.
Burmese army reinforcements were also sent to the site of the Ywathit Dam in Karenni state, which is being built by China's Datang company. In December last year the Karenni Army, one of the myriad ethnic armed groups operating in Burma's border regions, attacked a convoy of trucks transporting equipment to the dam, BRN said.
China Urged to Halt New Myanmar Dams
Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2011
A WSJ Staff Reporter with Aaron Back
The Kachin conflict: Are Chinese dams to blame?
PacNet (Center for Strategic and International Studies), July 8, 2011
China power ignored internal report calling for dam cancellation
The Irrawaddy, July 15, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
After conducting an assessment, a group of Chinese and Burmese scientists working for the China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) recommended in an internal report that the company cancel its Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River in northern Burma, but CPI has continued construction of the dam.
The 945 page assessment -- which was obtained by the Burma Rivers Network, an environmental organization -- was funded by CPI and conducted between January and May of 2009.
The CPI Report said that the Myitsone Dam will threaten bio-diverse ecosystems and impact millions of people that depend on the Irrawaddy River for their livelihoods: "The fragmentation of the Irrawaddy River by a series of dams will have serious social and environmental problems, not only upstream of dams but also very far downstream to the coastal area," the CPI Report said.
The CPI report concluded that the Myitsone Dam project should not proceed.
"There is no need for such a big dam to be constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River," the CPI report said.
However, CPI ignored the recommendation by its own assessment team and will go ahead with the controversial dam project, said Sai Sai, the coordinator of the Burma Rivers Network.
"Chinese companies are increasing their investments in Burma, yet they are not following their own standards. While CPI is hiding its assessment from the people of Burma, construction of the dam is speeding ahead," Sai Sai said.
CPI is planning to build and operate seven mega-dams on the Irrawaddy River and its tributaries. Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Ah Nan, the assistant coordinator of the Burma Rivers Network, said, "We call on CPI and the Burmese government to immediately stop the Myitsone Dam, as it will have a huge negative impact on local people." She also called on the Chinese government not to invest in Burma, as armed conflicts are still active and instability prevails in the country.
In June, serious clashes between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic Kachin armed group, broke out near the Chinese-run Taping Dam site in Kachin State, northern Burma. Due to the conflict, about 15,000 people have been displaced.
Mega-dams in Kachin State and across Burma are deeply unpopular in the country, but numerous appeals to Chinese companies and the Chinese and Burmese governments to stop the dams have gone unanswered, said the Burma Rivers Network.
The CPI Report warned that "the majority of local races oppose construction of the dams" and called for consultation with and the consent of affected people. The study also recommends a full social impact assessment be conducted along the length of the whole river, but this has not taken place.
Although completed in late 2009, the CPI Report was never made public.
The River With a Damned Future
The Irrawaddy, July 19, 2011
Myitsone, the confluence of Maykha and Malikha rivers around 46 km north of Myitkyina, is very important not only to the Kachin people, who consider it the birthplace of their culture, but also for the whole of Burma. It is the source of the Irrawaddy River, which flows through the country from north to south until it reaches the Andaman Sea. The river itself is a vital lifeline that has supported those who live along its length for centuries.
However, the Burmese government has other plans for the development of Myitsone. Together with China's state-owned Chinese Power Investment Corporation, the new military-backed civilian administration is planning to build the country's largest dam -- the 15th largest in the world—at Myitsone.
The dam will produce hydropower to be sold to China, earning around US $500 million annually. Once the dam is in operation, the Myitsone area will be totally flooded, and all the beauty and cultural significance associated with it will be lost forever.
Fearing the immense cultural and environmental impact of this project, including the dire consequences it could have for biodiversity in this relatively unspoiled area, local people and civil society groups have been protesting, but to no avail. The government is not listening.
That is why I decided to return while there was still the chance, as there was no way of telling whether Myitsone would exist as I remembered it ever again.
Although my trip was to enjoy Myitsone's beauty while it lasted, now my heart has grown heavy from listening to people's complaints and seeing with my own eyes how the confluence is already well on its way to destruction.
On our travels, we occasionally stopped to discuss the dam with local people and to ask what they hoped for from the new government formed after last year's election. Most had little to say about the latter subject, but were clearly unhappy about the dam and worried about what life would be like in the area where they will be relocated.
I mentioned to my friend how sad it was that the Kachin people were losing an important part of their heritage. But he pointed out that this was nothing new. The government has long exploited Kachin State, giving its people very little in return. And it is not just the Burmese government that is doing all the damage.
"Our state is being hungrily eaten by the Chinese government too," my friend said. He went on to explain how Burma's rulers and their cronies collaborate with the Chinese government and their state-owned companies to take teak, gems, gold and electricity out of Kachin State for their own profit, but have done very little for the development of the region.
The state's infrastructure is still rudimentary, and even travel to the capital is an ordeal. The train from Mandalay to Myitkyina takes around 24 hours along a rickety track. It sways and bumps the whole way, forcing you to hold on tight to your seat. Even so, tickets are hard to get, especially for first class seats, which are mostly taken by railway officials and the police for sale on the black market.
Travel by bus is even worse. The trip takes around 40 backbreaking hours from Mandalay, and can only be done in the dry season. The only comfortable and reliable way to reach Myitkyina is by air, which is the means of transportation recommended by most tour companies. But for the vast majority of local people, this option is completely unaffordable. This lack of proper infrastructure, combined with government restrictions, has done much to discourage travel to the state.
This piece is a summary of a travel article that appears in The Irrawaddy's e-magazine. To read the full version visit: http://issuu.com/irrawaddy/docs/irr_vol.19no2_june2011_issuu/4?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed
Myanmar rebels eye China mediation in clashes
Agence France Presse, June 16, 2011
China's hand in the renewed civil war in Burma
The Irrawaddy, June 16, 2011
The current armed conflict in Burma's northern Kachin State has effectively ended nearly two decades of ceasefire between the country's second largest ethnic army, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the newly sworn-in Naypyidaw government, bringing a strategic region near the Chinese border to the verge of a civil war.
The gunfire that was exchanged between the KIA and the Burmese army over the past seven days has claimed only a few casualties on both sides. But, despite concerns that the fighting will spread to other areas, no other clashes have been reported in the region since midday on Monday.
The past week's conflict is extraordinarily significant because for the first time it has reignited a civil war in northern Burma which has been in hibernation mode since a fragile "gentlemen's" agreement was reached in 1994.
The clashes that broke out last Thursday presented a new challenge in the armed struggle of Kachin rebels who initially demanded independence in 1961 but later called for a federal union.
The new and daunting challenge for the KIA today is its neighbor China. Across Kachin State, Chinese state-owned mega-corporations such as China Power Investment and China Datang are constructing a number of large-scale hydropower dams. And the electricity from those dams will be exported to China.
KIA spokesperson La Na told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the immediate cause of the latest fighting stemmed from the Burmese army's aggressive attempts to control areas surrounding the hydropower dams, which are located near the Chinese border -- areas which have long been under the control of KIA forces, and just a few kilometers away from China's strategic oil pipeline from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province which passes through central Burma.
La Na said that these massive investments were implemented without the consent of the local public or stakeholders such as the KIA, and these economic interests have already pushed Beijing into becoming an ally of the Burmese army.
"When we approached the Chinese company officials working at these dams, their response is that they already have agreements with Naypyidaw," he said. "China wants to get resources from Burma. So it seems that their policy is to secure our country's resources by any means necessary and, in this case, with the connivance of the Burmese authorities."
According to Burma Rivers Network, an independent environmental group, these dams have severe social, economic and environmental impacts. In addition, the majority of the power is to be exported to neighboring countries, necessitating the expansion of Burmese army control in the areas where these dams are being built.
The NGO said in a statement on Wednesday that the latest fighting near the Dapein and Shweli hydropower dams in northern Burma shows how the build-up of Burmese government troops in the region fuels the conflict and adds to the deep resentment against the widely unpopular dam projects.
Given China's huge investment in the region, it is interesting to question whether the Burmese armed forces tried to dispel the KIA battalions from the areas near these projects only after it received explicit approval from Beijing.
The ongoing armed clashes in Kachin State come just a few weeks after Burmese President Thein Sein visited Beijing and the two countries announced the establishment of a strategic relationship. During the visit, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo appealed to Thein Sein "for the smooth implementation of infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines, hydroelectric power and transportation," according to state news agency Xinhua.
China kept mum on the latest crisis near its border -- unlike during the Burmese government's surprise offensive in 2009 against the small Kokang ethnic militia group in northeastern Shan State. At that time, China reprimanded Naypyidaw for creating "border instability."
On Thursday, only a week later after the fightings, China has called for restraint on both parties and de-escalation of the tension.
Despite repeated stress on the importance of border stability from both Chinese and Burmese governments, the KIA official said the words lacked sincerity, describing it as "stability forced on the ethnic people by military means."
Asked if China had possibly given a green light to the Burmese army to clear the KIA-controlled areas, Jim Della-Giacoma, the Southeast Asian Director of International Crisis Group, said, "We don't think Beijing would have been caught off-guard by this [the latest clashes] as they were by the Kokang fighting of August 2009, but their larger interests remain."
The ICG report last year said that the Kokang conflict and the rise in tensions along the border prompted Beijing to increasingly view Burma's ethnic groups as a liability rather than a means of strategic leverage. It also said that the ethnic groups view China's support for them as provisional and driven by its own economic and security interests.
According to Dr. Zarni, a Burmese research fellow at the London School of Economics, the Burmese generals' insensitivity to the survival needs of local communities has resulted in the rise in military tensions with respective armed organizations.
"The ruling military class in Naypyidaw has condemned the Burmese people to slavery, and has colonized the ethnic groups with their other hand," he said. "Now this ruling class is fulfilling the wishes of the Chinese government, and what they want in return is China's political protection on the international stage."
Della-Giacoma described the current break in hostilities in Kachin State as "the lull before the storm." "We are not yet at a point of full resumption of conflict in Kachin, but if the Myanmar government doesn't move quickly to create space for a de-escalation, that's where this is headed," he said.
Despite the presumed incentive of economic interests and the China factor, the core major cause of this conflict, the KIA official said, is the Burmese army's attempt to subjugate the KIA under central command -- a move the KIA has rejected, just as many other armed ethnic groups have done.
Added to the Kachins' resentment toward Naypyidaw is that three Kachin political parties that tried to run in the parliamentary elections last year were banned from doing so on the grounds that their leaders were linked with the Kachin Independence Organization, the KIA's political wing.
La Na said the KIA had lost trust in the Burmese government and will not accept any peace talks inside the country. He said that KIA wants a neighboring country to host a dialogue between it and the Burmese government, so that Naypyidaw can be held accountable. "Our major goal is for a genuine federal union. We don't seek independence," he said.
Regarding the Chinese hydropower projects in Kachin State being included in any peace talks, the official said that although the KIA clearly rejects the Myitsone Dam project, which is not near KIA military bases, it is not in opposition to other dam projects in Kachin State.
"We wanted to have a say in these projects and make sure that the revenue from these dams benefits Kachin people too," he said, adding that the apparent immediate objective of the Burmese army attack is to completely control full and direct access to China. He said he does not rule out a large-scale major offensive by the Burmese army in the coming days. "It depends only on the Burmese government," La Na said. "We have prepared a broad defensive military position, just in case.
"But we know that real victims of war will be the people of the region," he added. "That's why we are not conducting military attacks in any other area except to destroy bridges to deter the Burmese army tanks coming in."
KIA Captures Six Govt Soldiers, as KIO Asks Beijing to Mediate
The Irrawaddy, June 16, 2011
Six government soldiers were captured by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) during armed conflict in Shan State on Thursday, while two days ago the armed group's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), sent a letter to Beijing requesting it to act as a "mediator" between the Burmese regime and ethnic groups, a Kachin commander said.
The KIA's vice chief-of-staff, Brig-Gen Sumlut Gun Maw, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday: "Kachin troops under KIA Brigade 4 in northern Shan State captured six [government] soldiers, including one officer, during today's skirmish."
"Regarding the letter to Beijing, I want to say that we attempted to achieve peace with the government bilaterally. However, it achieved no solid result, even after a 16-year ceasefire, so this time we want [Beijing] to be involved in the peace process as a mediator. That's why we sent the letter two days ago," he said.
The KIA official said that conflicts in Kachin State could create greater instability in northern Burma unless the regime in Naypyidaw commits itself to finding a peaceful resolution. He added that unity among ethnic armed groups along the Sino-Burmese border has strengthened since government troops attacked last week.
"Since June 9, fighting between the KIA and [government troops] has been ongoing. We have talked with other ethnic groups and have an agreement," said Sumlut Gun Maw. "We don't want the war to become bigger, but if we have no alternative, we will do what we have to to defend ourselves."
"We will defend our land using guerrilla warfare tactics until the very end," he added. He said that since the government army's "strategic attack" against Kachin troops near Ta Ping Hydropower sites in Momauk, Bhamo District, the KIA has discussed military cooperation with five other ethnic armed groups allied with them. However, he declined to provide further details about the alliance agreement during the ongoing conflict.
Commenting on the government army's operation plan against the KIA on June 9, he said the area is in a strategic location militarily and geographically, since it is just 30 miles from the Chinese border. "Their plan is to carry out a big offensive against the KIA under the pretext of providing 'dam security'. Their plan is to totally destroy our troops," said Sumlut Gun Maw.
According to the Kachin commander, the conflict could escalate, as there are estimated to be at least six government army battalions around the conflict area near the hydropower site and more reinforcements from other light infantry divisions are reported to be on their way.
"We have good relations with the Chinese authorities and Chinese companies. Why do they need to call for further security?" asked Sumlut Gun Maw.
Asked if Kachin and Chinese officials have discussed the recent conflict, Sumlut Gun Maw said that there have been no official talks yet, although KIA leaders have reported the situation to their Chinese counterparts.
Concerning reports that the Burmese air force has sent combat planes to Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, and rumors that the defense forces of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) have been ordered to shoot down any aircraft that crosses into Chinese air space, Sumlut Gun Maw said: "Some local PLA commanders might say something like that, but I'm not sure about the commander in Beijing."
Another likely concern of Beijing is the safety of Chinese nationals living in Kachin State. There are believed to be several hundred thousand Chinese businessmen, workers and technicians in the state, which has attracted growing numbers of investors from China in recent years. "Regarding the security of Chinese citizens, if instability occurs, it could affect everyone. But I have ordered KIA troops to be concerned about the safety of Chinese citizens," said Sumlut Gun Maw.
On Thursday, Chinese authorities made their first public statement on the Kachin conflict. "We are paying attention to the situation in Myanmar [Burma] near the border area. We urge the two parties to exercise restraint and prevent the escalation of the situation, and resolve the relevant disputes through peaceful negotiations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a news conference in Beijing.
Hong said China was giving humanitarian help to residents from Burma who had fled, but he gave no details on their number or condition. So far, it appears that most civilians fleeing the conflict have remained inside Burma, although that could change, according to the KIO's joint-secretary, La Nan.
"Our statistics show that more than 10,000 refugees have come here to flee the fighting. Some could cross into China," he said, speaking to The Irrawaddy from the KIO's headquarters in Laiza on Thursday.
Residents of Myitkyina have also been uneasy, amid rumors that fighting could spread to the town. "People here are worried that there could be fighting here," said Soe, a student in her early 20s who lives in Myitkyina. "I hope the situation will be resolved peacefully."
As of Thursday, Burmese state-run media have been silent on the conflict. Journalists for privately owned publications based in Rangoon have also not begun to report on the situation in Kachin State.
Burma (Myanmar) border conflict threatens to complicate ties with China
Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 2011
Kachin Conflict Intertwined with Chinese Interests
The Irrawaddy, June 24, 2011
Due to the reemergence of armed conflict between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Burma's northern Kachin State, the region has once again become unstable after an era of relative calm during the 17-year-long ceasefire between the opposing armies.
With respect to the number of casualties, the intensity of the battles could be called low. But with respect to their current and potential future impact on the region, the armed conflicts are huge. Already, more than 10,000 local residents have sought refuge near the China-Burma border area; a hydro-power dam project on the Taping River has been shut down, resulting in 215 Chinese engineers and workers fleeing back to China; and border trade has slowed, affecting the local economy.
If the war spreads into other parts of Kachin State, even more Chinese companies involved in natural resource extraction will have to leave their multimillion dollar investments unprotected on the battlefield. In addition, the unknown numbers of Chinese workers who have migrated to Kachin State, and are occupying jobs that could have been taken up by local residents, will have to flee as their countrymen in the north recently did.
Unlike the pre-ceasefire armed conflicts in Kachin State, in which the government's one military ambition was to occupy the territory controlled by ethnic armed groups in order to spread the military regime's authority in the border region, the current conflicts are intertwined with the protection of China's economic interests in the area.
Kachin State is rich in natural resources, particularly water resources, and China has invested in at least nine major hydro-power projects, including one of the two dams on the Taping River in the conflict area. Most of the jobs on these projects are being given to Chinese workers, and most of the combined 12,000 megawatts of electricity that Earthright International estimates will be generated by the dams will be exported to China.
In addition, projects such as the Myitsone Dam, currently being constructed on the Irrawaddy Confluence, carry with them enormous environmental concerns and will displace thousands of local residents.
In March, the KIA sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao requesting a halt in the construction of the Myitsone dam, which is being financed by China Power Investment Co. Ltd. In the letter, the KIA said that if the dam construction continues, a civil war could be resumed.
Unsurprisingly, and in line with the past practice of the former military regime, Burma's new government has blamed the KIA for all the recent armed clashes and accused the ethnic armed group of attempting to destroy Chinese interests in their area.
"[The] KIA based in Kachin State is committing deterrence to development projects of Kachin State, disturbing the tasks and posing threats to Chinese staff who are working at hydropower projects," reported the state-run New Light of Myanmar on June 18. "[the] KIA members disturbed and threatened Chinese experts and employees assigned to the project, [the Burmese] authorities warned them not to cause hindrances to the project," the newspaper said.
Lahpai Nawdin, the editor of the Thailand-based Kachin News Group, said that it was predictable that China's increased investments and the expansion of the dam projects within and close to the KIA-controlled area would trigger renewed conflict between the KIA and the Burmese army.
One question being debated is whether Burma's President Thein Sein and his new government solicited and received China's support to eliminate the KIA.
After the ceasefire agreement between the KIA and the former Burmese military junta was put into effect in the early 1990s, the KIA leaders made efforts to build up urban areas like Laiza and Maijayang with their own resources, and to facilitate the growth of the border economy, said Aung Thu Nyein, a PhD candidate at the National Institute of Development Administration in Thailand and a senior researcher at the Bahu Development Research Institute based in Thailand.
He said the KIA leaders were proud of their accomplishments, and expected that the Burmese government would give them proper credit and respect for these efforts. But now, everything is back to square one after the government once again labeled the KIA an "insurgent group," which tarnished their image.
KIA spokesperson Colonel James Lum Dau agreed, telling The Irrawaddy that: "The characteristic of an insurgent group is to kill people, rob their property, burn down their houses and destroy everything. We don't do these things; they are not our policy."
Asked whether China's growing business ties with the Naypyidaw government and their investments in Kachin State could be a threat to the KIA, James Lum Dau said that Chinese leaders know clearly what happened in Kachin State, and based on the recent conflicts, they know the importance of including all the stakeholders, including the KIA, in attempts to bring peace to the state.
With the armed conflict in Kachin State serving as a case study for how much progress the new government has made towards democracy and reconciliation as compared to the previous military junta, it seems that Burma has at best gone nowhere, and at worst gone backwards. The leadership of President Thein Sein, who pledged to "give top priority to national unity" during his inaugural speech to the new Parliament, can be justly called into question. And apparently the new Kachin State Parliament and regional government, headed by a chief minister, has absolutely no role or voice in tackling instability in their state.
Aung Thu Nyein said that if the new government does not change its mindset, more problems will lie ahead in Burma's ethnic states. He said that if the new government is not willing give both opportunity and the authority to the leaders of ethnic states in order to provide them with a sense of ownership in developing their own areas of administration, the country's prospects as a whole have a dim future.
KIA doubts Burmese army will attack through China
The Irrawaddy, June 28, 2011
Kachin Independence Army (KIA) leaders said on Monday that they do not believe the Chinese government would allow the Burmese army to launch offensives against the KIA headquarters in Laiza, Kachin State from Chinese territory.
In an interview with The Irrawaddy in Laiza, the KIA's deputy military chief, Gen. Gun Maw, said that the Burmese army might have asked the Chinese government for such help during a recent meeting of Chinese and Burmese government officials in Mungshi City, Yunnan Province.
But while not completely ruling out the scenario of China-based attacks by the Burmese army, he did not believe the Chinese government would allow such a move because it would have a substantial negative impact on border stability.
Gun Maw said that one reason he doubts the Chinese government will let the Burmese army use the main trading route between Laiza and Yunnan Province to launch military offensives against the KIA is the fact that an estimated 300,000 Kachin people are living on the Chinese side of the border.
"If the Burmese army wants to attack us from China, they can do so without the Chinese government's permission. They can use the border pass cards to send commandos," said Gun Maw. "But I think the Chinese government will not want to have problems with the Kachin community in China."
Ringed by rugged mountains, Laiza used to serve as one of the main trading points between Burma and China before the KIA and the Burmese army became engaged in deadly clashes more than two weeks ago. The current conflict has been centered mainly on control of Momauk Township, Kachin State, where the Chinese government has built hydropower plants.
Since the fighting began, the previously busy road between Laiza and Yunnan Province has been mostly silent. Gun Maw said that if the Burmese army troops tried to enter Laiza using this road, it would find itself in "a killing field."
"We have spread out our defenses all over the area," Gun Maw said, adding that he has received information that the Burmese government is now preparing to launch major offensives against Laiza and the KIA-controlled areas of Momauk Township.
Although the Burmese government claimed that its attacks against the KIA were aimed at establishing the security of China-built dams in Momauk Township, KIA officials, including Gun Maw, viewed the move as having a broader military purpose. "The Burmese army wants to cut off the logistics line between our troops in Kachin State and Shan State and weaken our position," Gun Maw said.
Col. Zau Raw is the KIA military commander overseeing the hundreds of KIA troops in Kukai, Thipaw and Theindi townships in Shan State—the townships where China's strategic oil pipeline will pass through on its way from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province.
Asked what actions the KIA would take if the Burmese army launched attacks against his troops on the pretense of providing security for the pipeline, Zau Raw said, "We will launch guerilla warfare. We have already obtained an abundance of small rockets with which we successfully resisted the Burmese army attacks in Momauk."
Following the interview with Zau Raw on Monday, the Burmese army sent reinforcement troops to Kukai and Theindi Townships in Shan State. On Tuesday, Zau Raw said the reinforcement troops were coming in small groups dressed in civilian clothes. "All indications are that we are in for a major war," he said.
The recent fighting has effectively ended the 17-year ceasefire between the KIA and the Burmese military. The conflict flared after tension built up over the government's demand that the KIA join its Border Guard Force, which has the aim of placing the KIA and other ethnic armed groups under the central command of the Burmese army.
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, has rejected a recent ceasefire offer by intermediaries representing the Burmese government, and through those intermediaries has asked the government for formal evidence stating that it wishes to end hostilities.
Although in the aftermath of the fighting the Chinese government called for the Burmese government and the KIA to show restraint, KIA officials described communication between KIA and Chinese government officials as being virtually inactive.
However, they would like the Chinese government to host a dialogue between the Burmese government and the KIA in order to hold the government accountable for any deals reached.
Meanwhile, an armed clash broke out in Hpakant Township, Kachin State at 3 pm Monday between KIA troops and the Burmese army. KIA officials said that their troops did not suffer any casualties, whereas the Burmese army lost three of its soldiers in the fighting.
5. BATTLE REPORTS
Overnight Clash in Kachin State
The Irrawaddy, June 9, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
Tensions finally snapped in Kachin State on Thursday when fighting broke out between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Momauk Township, according to Kachin sources.
Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Seng Aung, a local resident of Laiza, the KIA headquarters near the Sino-Burmese border, said that an armed clash broke out before at 2 am on Thursday and continued until noon.
"It is like the government troops are intimidating the KIA," he said. "They want to test the Kachin army because it had previously warned them not to cross into its area."
Seng Aung said the fighting involved KIA Brigade 3's Battalion 15 and Burmese Battalion 437. Causalities are as yet unknown, but both sides have suffered losses, he said.
Momauk Township lies under the control of KIA Brigade 3 where tension between the government and KIA troops had been rising for months, said a source close to the KIA.
On Feb. 7, an armed clash between government troops and the KIA occurred just southeast of Bhamo, another area that is under the control of KIA Brigade 3. Kachin sources claim that one Burmese battalion commander was killed.
Although the Kachins had signed a ceasefire with the Burmese government in 1994, tensions had been mounting since last year when the KIA rejected Naypyidaw's border guard force (BGF) order.
"Becoming a BGF means submitting yourself to the total control of the government," said Col. James Lun Dau, a KIO central committee member.
On Oct. 18 2010, an office of the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), was raided by government troops who arrested two KIO officials. A few days later, the regime's state-run media The New Light of Myanmar referred to the KIA as "insurgents" for the first time in years, and the long-held but fragile ceasefire was all but declared broken.
In September, the KIA troops also fired at a helicopter owned by the government-friendly Htoo Group of Companies while it flew over KIO headquarters in Laiza, according to Kachin sources.
[second part of article, about Karen situation, edited out here.]
Battles in Kachin State continue
US Campaign for Burma, June 13, 2011
Battles in Kachin State continue; Kachin Independence Army (KIA) issues an order to its troops to launch full-scale resistance war; 28 Chinese engineers become hostages
Kachin Independence Army Issues an Order to Its Troops to Launch Full-Scale Resistance War against the Burmese Regime Attack
Today, Kachin Independent Army (KIA) issued an order to all of its forces to launch full-scale resistance war against the attack made by the Burmese military regime's troops as its ultimatum to the regime to hold a peaceful dialogue was not responded by 12:00 PM, said Major General Gwan Maw, Vice Chief of Staff of the KIA, armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
Chronology of Battles
Earlier this month, the regime's Northern Military Command, based in Myitkyina, sent an order to the KIA, stating that KIA troops (the 15th Battalion) at Sang Gang Post, near Momauk Township, in Bhamo District, should be removed completely by 12:00 PM on June 11, 2011. The area is near the Ta Pein (Taping) River, where two hydropower plant projects are being constructed by China Datang Corporation (CDT). These power plants are located on the Bhamo-Myitkyina Highway and electricity will be transported to China through the Highway. Therefore, the regime asked the KIA to move away from that area. However, KIA refused to move away as the area is a strategic location for KIA, only 60 miles away from Laiza, KIO/KIA Headquarters. The area is also linked between the KIA's 3rd Brigade Command at Maijayang and the General Headquarters at Laiza.
On June 8, 2011, a group of Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 437 entered into the area secretly to gather intelligence. KIA arrested them, two officials and one private, for entering its controlled area without permission. The regime demanded to transfer its soldiers back, but KIA refused and urged the regime troops to withdraw from the area. The regime arrested one KIA official, stationed in its liaison office in Myitkyina.
On June 9, 2011, early morning at 7:00 AM, more than 500 regime troops marched into Sang Gang Post and stared shooting at KIA troops. KIA shot back and fighting lasted about three hours. At least three Burmese soldiers were killed and six injured in the fighting. However, only two KIA were injured, a KIA officer in the frontline said. During the fight, the KIA captured three more Burmese soldiers.
After the battle, a negotiation was made between the both sides. Major General Zay Yar Aung, Commander of the Northern Military Command, promised that if KIA releases all Burmese soldiers they have captured, the regime would also release the one they have detained, and Burmese troops will withdraw from the area. As per agreement, KIA returned six Burmese soldiers, including Captain Myat Ko Ko, to the regime. But, the regime returned the dead body of Lance-Corporal Sau Ying, whose was apparently killed by severe beating and torture. The regime said he was killed during the fight.
Heavy fighting continued on June 11, after the deadline by the regime to the KIA troops to withdraw from the area by 12:00 PM was passed. Around 4:00 PM. The regime's troops launched attack against KIA troops and severe fighting and artillery shelling continued two consecutive days until June 12. The KIO closed its last remaining liaison office in Myitkyina. KIO also shut down its own company, Buga Company, which was operating in Myitkyina, supplying essential electricity to the towns of Myitkyina and Waingmaw since late 2006.
On June 12, KIO Central Committee held an emergency meeting in its Laiza Headquarters and sent a letter to Major General Zay Yar Aung, Commander of the Northern Military Command. In the letter, KIO reiterated that it will not withdraw its troop from the area and asked the Commander to solve the problem by peaceful means. KIO warned that such an aggressive act can spread to the full-scale civil war all over the country.
On June 13, a minister from the Thein Sein's government contacted the KIO leaders and asked for negotiation. KIO agreed to talk as soon as possible and asked the regime to respond by 12:00 PM. The minister insisted that the KIO first removes its forces from the area. Then the minister failed to contact the KIO at 12:00 PM. As the deadline was passed, the KIO decided to alert all of its forces at the highest level and ordered them to launch full-scale resistant war.
As of this writing, more than 2,000 villagers from the conflict area fled to China-Burma border.
Forced Labor, Forced Confiscation of Private Vehicles
As the regime has tried to reinforce its troops to the conflict area, people in Bhamo, Waing Maw, and Myitkyina Townships are forcibly recruited to carry the weapons and ammunitions for the Burmese troops. Plenty of private vehicles are also forced to drive for the regime's troops.
About 28 Chinese engineers and workers from the hydro power plants are not allowed to return China by the Burmese troops. They are now like hostages, making the KIA troops to be extremely careful not to hurt them during the fight. KIA has requested these Chinese technicians to leave the country since a week ago.
Four ethnic resistance groups pledge to join the fight against the Burmese troops, said Brigadier General Gwan Maw.
Kachin News Group http://www.kachinnews.com/
Radio Free Asia Burmese Service Broadcast
Radio Free Asia Burmese Service's Interview with Brigadier General Gwan Maw, Vice Chief of Staff, KIA
Civil-Military Observers from China-Burma border
Nam Hpak Hka suspension bridge immobilized by Kachin armed group
Mizzima, June 14, 2011
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Tuesday used mines to damage the Nam Hpak Hka suspension bridge, making it unusable to government military vehicles in the Momauk Township area. The bridge can still be crossed by foot.
Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) central committee member La Nang said KIA Battalion 15 of Brigade No. 3 immobilized the 100-feet long, single-track suspension bridge located on the road to the Taping hydropower plant on the early morning of Tuesday.
'We damaged the Nam Hpak Hka bridge used for transporting food to the Taping hydropower plant at around 3:30 a.m. Large cars and military trucks cannot pass over the bridge anymore, and the government cannot send reinforcements', La Nang told Mizzima.
Trucks and cars that sought to travel from Momauk, a government-controlled area, or Sang Gang to the Taping hydropower plant had to pass over the bridge.
Government and KIA troops began firing mortar rounds on Saturday around Htonebo, a KIA stronghold at Bumsen. On Monday evening, both sides stopped firing.
La Nang said that the government troops could not overrun the Htonebo stronghold. 'They can not seize it', he said. 'But, it's a low area. So the government troops fired mortar rounds into it. That's why our troops moved to a higher hill. The lower area is not our stronghold. Our frontline troops went there to resist the government's attack, but our troops then moved back to higher ground'.
Meanwhile, the Chinese hydropower company made an attempt to remove 30 Chinese employees from the area but government troops would not allow them to evacuate.
'The Chinese employees were not allowed to go back', La Nang said. 'They are held as hostages. The government troops used them as human shields. They may think that if they use Chinese people, the KIA will not fire. We heard that the government troops ordered Chinese women to cook for them'.
Within the past three days, Burmese troops fired an estimated 1,000 mortar rounds (81 and 120 millimeter mortar shells) into the KIA areas, according to the KIA.
Bauk Ja says government troops suffer heavy casualties in fight with KIA
Mizzima, June 14, 2011
A Burmese tactical operation commander is among the dead and heavy casualties in the fighting with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), according to Bauk Ja, an unsuccessful electoral candidate in Hpakant Township with the National Democratic Force.
She said that more than 100 Burmese soldiers have died in the fighting. Three Kachin soldiers have died and one soldier was injured, Bauk Ja said.
'The tactical operation commander died few days ago. The new tactical operation commander was seriously injured', she said.
Burmese soldiers injured in the fighting in Momauk and Bhamo were sent to local hospitals, but there were not enough doctors in the hospitals so the authorities ordered doctors in Myitkyina to go to the hospitals in Momauk and Bhamo, according to Bauk Ja. 'I heard that there were more than 3,000 war refugees. Some fled to China and some are missing in no-man's-land. Others fled to Laiza', she said.
KIO destroys 10 bridges and capture and arrest six
Mizzima, June 16, 2011
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) said that they have destroyed 10 bridges so far to prevent heavy weapons moving closer to their front lines, captured three government soldiers including a lieutenant and arrested three civilians.
'We have destroyed about 10 bridges but we destroyed only the bridges which were used by government troops in their offensives. This is a normal military tactic', KIO Lieutenant Colonel Yaw Htone told Mizzima.
The KIO has destroyed wooden bridges, concrete bridges and suspension bridges in Phakant, Moemouk and Waimaw townships in Kachin State.
KIO central committee member La Nan said that the KIO arrested Lieutenant Thiha Naing a.k.a. Thet Naing Aung; Private Tun Zaw and Private Phyo Wei Aung of the Light Infantry Battalion No. 342 at near Pan Wah village in Namtu Township, Shan State, on Thursday. Three civilians found with the soldiers were also arrested and detained, he said.
The bridges destroyed are the Nam Phat Kha stream suspension bridge connecting the Tapein hydroelectric dam in Moemauk Township; Mayanchaung bridge in Waimaw; Mali stream bridge on Waimaw-Laiza highway; Lanna stream bridge on Waimaw-Kampaiti highway; Namsar stream bridge on Tamoenye-Monsi highway in Shan State' bridge on Phankant-Karmine-Lonekhinhighway; a bridge connecting Hopin and Namma villages on the Phakant-Gyikha highway; Namsam stream concrete bridge connecting Warazwap-Bangkok villages; the Namsamkha wooden bridge near Namsam village between Warazwap and Bangkok villages; and the Maykha River suspension bridge, 59 miles south of Chibwe Township.
Military analysts said that some earlier destruction of bridges had only limited results.
KIO and local residents said that there was a small clash between KIA and government troops about two miles from Manhsi village in Moemauk Township on Wednesday night.
Local residents said that the Burmese authorities are giving military training to convicts in Bhamo Township where minor clashes have occured. Also firefighters, policemen and people's militia members are being provided military training in Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State.
1. Nam Phat Kha suspension bridge connecting Tapein hydroelectric dams in Moemauk Township
2. Mayan Stream bridge in Waimaw Township
3. Mali stream bridge on Waimaw-Laiza highway
4. Lanna stream bridge on Waimaw-Kampaiti highway
5. Namsar stream bridge on Tarmonye-Monsi road in Shan State
6. Bridge connecting Karmi and Lonekhin in Phakant Township
7. Bridge between Hopin and Nammon village on Phakant-Gwikhar road
8. Namsan stream concrete bridge between Warazwap and Bangkok villages
9. Namsankha stream wooden bridge near Namsan village between Warazwap and Bangkok villages
10. Maykha River suspension bridge, 59 miles south of Chibwe Town
Fighting Continues in Northern Burma as Govt Reinforce Troops: KIA
The Irrawaddy, June 20, 2011
Armed clashes that started near Burma's northern border with China more than a week ago continued through the weekend and show no signs of ending, according to a spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) who said that the government army is sending reinforcements to the area.
There were no reports of casualties on either side during the exchanges of fire that took place in Moe Hnyin Township of Kachin State during the weekend.
But the KIA spokesperson, Lan Nan, said that KIA troops destroyed a Burmese intelligence outpost in Bamaw Township on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River at 2 am on Sunday as part of its preparations for its defense against major offensives by the Burmese army. He added that the Burmese army had already reinforced its troops over the weekend and did not rule out the possibility of major fighting in coming days. The Irrawaddy was not able to independently confirm this report.
The current armed conflict in Burma's northern Kachin State has ended a nearly two-decade-old ceasefire between the country's second largest ethnic army, the KIA, and the Burmese government, bringing a strategic region near the Chinese border to the verge of a civil war. The armed clashes occurred just two months after a new, nominally civilian government came into office in Naypyidaw.
The fighting over the weekend followed the Burmese government's announcement in state-run media on Saturday that the objective of its military operations is to establish the security of a hydropower plant on the Tapaing river in Kachin State near the Chinese border. Built by a Chinese state-owned company a few years ago, the plant is located in Momauk Township, where KIA troops have been active for decades. All of the electricity generated by the plant is beingexported to China.
According to Burmese state media, more than 200 Chinese workers have returned home from Burma since the fighting started and the plant has ceased to operate since last Tuesday, causing a great loss to "the country and the people."
The KIA spokesperson said that one of the main reasons behind the recent fighting was that the government did not abide by agreements made with KIA when the plant was built, one of which was that electricity generated from the hydropower plants must be shared with local people.
"This electricity is now going to China, not the people as we've agreed," he said. "Second, we agreed to jointly take care of security along the roads between China and Burma in this region. Now we were told to leave these areas, but we can't because we have lived here since a long time ago."
Further deadly fighting could occur at any time, since the KIA troops remain firmly in place near the hydropower plant and a road that would give the Burmese army direct access to China. The areas are also only a few kilometers away from the route of China's strategic oil pipeline being built from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province through central Burma.
The fighting, which started on June 9, has killed three KIA soldiers, but the exact casualty figure for the Burmese army remains unknown.
On Friday, the Burmese government sent four local Kachin leaders as intermediaries to the town of Laiza, where the KIA has its headquarters, with the message that Naypyidaw wanted to call a ceasefire and end hostilities against the KIA and that it had ordered its front-line troops to stop firing on Kachin rebels two days ago.
The leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the KIA's political wing, did not accept the ceasefire. Through the government's intermediaries, it said that it wanted evidence that the Burmese army has formally accepted a ceasefire. Since then, there has been no contact between the two sides. The Chinese government, which has built a number of hydropower dams in Kachin State, has called for restraint on both sides. China's ambassador in Rangoon met with the Burmese foreign and border affairs ministers on Friday, according to the Burmese state-run media, which did not give any further details of the discussion.
"I think that China certainly knew that this offensive against the KIA was coming, but I don't think Beijing or Yunnan would accept a return to all-out war in the border areas, and the consequent refugee flows," said Joshua Kurlantzick, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who is a frequent commentator on Burmese politics for Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs magazines, in a recent interview with The Irrawaddy.
Rights groups have pointed out that the dam projects in Kachin and other ethnic areas will have a major negative social and environmental impact, and were done without the consent of or proper compensation for local people.
According to KIA officials, the group is not totally opposed to development projects, including the construction of hydropower dams. It has, however, spoken out against the massive, Chinese-built Myitsone dam project near the state capital of Myitkyina, because of the enormous damage it is expected to cause. One of the group's main demands, they said, is that the projects benefit local people, and not just serve as a source of revenue for Naypyidaw.
In May, the KIA sent a letter to the Chinese government, formally objecting to the Myitsone dam project and warning that local resentment against the project could spark a civil war. "The tension remains high in many areas," said the KIA spokesperson. Despite these tensions, however, KIA officials held a small celebration at their headquarters in Laiza on Sunday to mark the birthday of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who said that her birthday wish was peace in the country.
Myanmar fighting flares after peace talks fail
Reuters, June 20, 2011
KIA Launches Targeted Urban Attacks
The Irrawaddy, June 22, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
Although fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese government troops in Kachin State has diminished in recent days, tension remains and the KIA continues to launch targeted attacks in urban areas, according to local sources.
On Tuesday night, two bombs went off at government's buildings -- a police station and an immigration office -- in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State in northern Burma. A police official at Police Station No. 1 in Myitkyina confirmed the explosion, but said there were no casualties. He said he believed the KIA was behind the plot.
La Nan, the joint-secretary of the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said that the bomb attacks were launched by the KIA in accordance with its policy of choosing targets where civilians would not be injured.
"The bombs went off at an immigration office and at Police Station No. 1, and no civilian was hurt. We attacked in places where we should attack. We only target the government's important sectors," said La Nan.
Seng Aung, a Kachin youth living in Laiza, the KIA's headquarters on the Sino-Burma border, said that there was also an explosion last night at a bridge near Baw Hpum Yan, which is located on the route from Bhamo to Myitkyina.
In addition, the Thailand-based Kachin News Group reported that on Tuesday at midnight the KIA used mines to blow up a strategic railway bridge located on the Namkoi River between Myitkyina and Mandalay. The KIA targeted the railway because it is the main route used by the government to send reinforcements and supplies to Kachin State.
The KIA said it has not had any contact with the government following their last talks on June 19, and despite the fact that skirmishes between government troops and the KIA have died down for now, the KIA has not called a cease fire. "We haven't ordered our troops at the frontline to cease fire with the government troops," said La Nan.
Meanwhile, on June 18-19, the KIA released 18 government soldiers that it arrested and detained during fighting with the government troops. Some villagers in Maijayang Village, Momauk Township who fled home recently returned home two days ago and recommenced farming, said La Aung, a resident of Maijayang. He said the situation has become more stable, but many villagers are still seeking refuge in Laiza.
Some 10,000 Kachin people previously fled their homes and sought refuge in Laiza and other locations on the Sino-Burma border due to the hostilities that first broke out between the government and the KIA troops in northern Burma on June 9.
Bombs destroy bridge on Myitkyina-Mandalay railway
Mizzima, June 22, 2011
The latest bombing of a bridge in Kachin State on Tuesday destroyed the Panechaung Bridge on the Myitkyina-Mandalay railway near Namtee Village in Kachin State, residents said. It is the only rail link to Myitkyina.
According to a government report on Saturday, the KIA has destroyed 25 bridges during the most recent fighting.
On Tuesday at around 2:30 a.m., mines were detonated which severely damaged the 8-foot-wide by 50-foot long bridge, which is located 32 miles from Myitkyina. The iron frame of the bridge fell down and the brick platform was damaged, according to a local resident who contacted Mizzima by telephone.
Rail passengers from both sides of the bridge must cross the stream by other means and then take another train on the opposite side of the bridge.
Railway workers said the bridge might be back in service by Thursday, according to one local resident.
Meanwhile, because of the renewed fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and government troops, local authorities have collected 2,000 kyat (about US$ 2.50) per family from nearby houses to give to security guards posted in the area. If a family cannot pay the money, they are required to send someone to work as a security guard for three days.
Residents said there are many government guards and police posted around schools, bridges and office buildings in Namtee.
In other bombings, on Tuesday night two bombs exploded about 10 p.m. in Myitkyina. The blasts hit Myitkyina Police Station No. 1 and in front of an immigration office, according to residents. There were no reported casualties.
The KIA claimed responsibility for the bomb at the police station, according to KIO central committee member and joint secretary La Nang. He said that the KIA was not targeting civilians.
Similarly, on June 20 the KIA made hand grenade attacks on a police station in Myoma Quarter in Hpakant and a police station in Lonekhin village. There were no reported casualties.
On Sunday, the KIA made a hand grenade attack on a Military Affairs Security office in Namsanyung Village on the Myitkyina-Bhamo Road.
Kachin and other refugees are still arriving at KIA headquarters in Laiza, according to the KIA.
Meanwhile, a rumour is circulating in Myitkyina that Lasang Aung Wa, a leader of a KIO breakaway group that transformed itself into a people's militia, is under house arrest. The information has not been confirmed.
On the refugee front, 80 people have reportedly taken refuge in Zilun Church in Myitkyina; 60 in Takkon Church and about 100 in Waimaw, according to a local pastor.
Security has been tightened around Takkon Quarter in Myitkyina, according to residents.
Burmese government, KIO continue fighting in Kachin State
Mizzima, June 24, 2011
Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Battalion No. 7 and the Burmese government Infantry 139 unit took place on Wednesday in Mali-Hkrang Walawng in Putao Township in Kachin State. The number of causalities was not known.
In addition, on Thursday morning a small clash took place between government troops and Kachin troops in the same area.
There were also small clashes in Momauk, Putao, Waimaw and Tanyungzup villages located around 20 miles from Tanphaye village, the location of the Myitsone dam project.
The government has increased its troop levels in Myitkyina and Bhamo, according to La Nang, a KIA spokesperson.
The KIA said that it released two Burmese soldiers, including Thiha Naing aka Thet Naing Aung of the Infantry 342 unit on June 16, in addition to three civilians on June 19.
In addition, on June 18 the KIA released eight civilians who were arrested on June 9 during the fighting because they were suspected of being government informers.
Kachin army ambush leaves 30 dead
Democratic Voice of Burma, July 8, 2011
Around 30 Burmese troops are presumed dead after an ambush by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on a convoy in Kachin state's Momauk township yesterday afternoon.
Two trucks carrying government soldiers along the Bhamo-to-Myitkyina highway were damaged in the attack; one of the two carrying more than two dozen troops was blown to pieces, according to the spokesperson of the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).
The attack came as government representatives were holding talks with the KIA at its headquarters in Laiza. The two sides have been engaged in heavy fighting over the past two months in various regions of Kachin state, forcing the displacement of some 20,000 people.
Government newspapers yesterday reported that the KIA had destroyed a number of roads and bridges in Kachin state.
The reasons behind the outbreak in violence focus largely on attempts by Naypyidaw to gain control over swathes of Kachin state and neighbouring Shan state, where the KIA has territory. The campaign has also been taken to Karen and Karenni state bordering Thailand, where various insurgent groups are based.
As well as exacting retribution on ethnic armies who refused to become government-controlled Border Guard Forces, Naypyidaw is also looking to secure areas around lucrative energy projects in Kachin and Shan state, the majority of which are backed by China.
An article in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said that the Burmese army had fought the KIA "for the sake of project and public security", a rare admission of a key reason behind its operations in the country's north.
Despite several attempts at negotiation, skirmishes continue to break out. Colonel Than Aung, Kachin state's Minister for Border and Security Affairs sent a handwritten letter to the KIO warning that negotiations would take time.
Fresh govt. attack on KIA at hydropower dam
The Irrawaddy, July 11, 2011
Burmese government troops have launched a large-scale attack including mortar shells against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) at the hydropower dam site in Momauk Township, Kachin State, northern Burma.
The two-day assault started on Sunday and involved government forces and KIA Battalions 15 and 25, according to La Nan, joint-secretary of the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
A number of 81mm mortars shells also landed in areas close to the KIA headquarters in Laiza, next to the Sino-Burmese border. Some mortar rounds actually landed on Chinese soil and were inspected by the authorities there, claimed La Nan.
The KIO has accused government troops of attacking the KIA from covered positions amongst civilian infrastructure at the Taping hydropower dam site including workshops and electricity poles. If KIA troops were to return fire, there is a strong possibility that these important Chinese-owned amenities will be damaged.
La Nan alleges that the Burmese government is attempting to cause problems between the KIA and Chinese businesses through these military tactics. KIA troops, however, refused to be drawn into a protracted battle with the Burmese Army, he added.
KIA sources also reveal that the KIO leadership will conduct survey amongst Kachin civilians tomorrow to determine if they should seek a ceasefire with the government.
Serious fighting between the Burmese Army and KIA troops has forced more than 10,000 refugees to flee to the Sino-Burmese border since hostilities broke out on June 9.
Both small-scale clashes and heavy fighting have taken place every day across Kachin State despite the government and KIO leaders recently discussing possibilities for a ceasefire.
Meanwhile, local humanitarian groups and relief agencies have raised concerns regarding a rising need for emergency food, shelter and medical care, as well as schooling for children on the Sino-Burmese border.
More than 15,000 internally displaced persons and refugees are currently living in make-shift camps along the frontier, and relief groups are quickly running out of aid and essential supplies.
28 govt. troops killed in ambush: KIA
The Irrawaddy, July 18, 2011
Officials of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) claim 28 government troops were killed during skirmishes in southern Myitkyina over the weekend -- the most Burmese Army casualties since the current Kachin State conflict began on June 9.
KIA sources told The Irrawaddy that they ambushed a military supply column and the high number of government casualties -- which included a major -- was due to the surprise nature of the attack which took place in unfamiliar surroundings for government troops. A KIA soldier was killed and four others were injured in the fighting.
La Nan, joint-secretary of the KIA's political wing the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said: "Information is still being collected about the casualties, but is possible that the Burmese Army column included around 60 troops who engaged with KIA soldiers."
In the skirmishes, 11 government troops including two officers -- a captain and a lieutenant -- were captured. Along with the soldiers, KIA sources said they seized a 60mm motor, a two-inch motor, a MG47 machine gun and other MA rifles.
Government troops battling the KIA over the weekend were from Infantry Battalion (IB) 21 under the Northern Regional Military Command. IB-21 is one of three battalions operating together against KIA mobilizations in Kachin State, alongside IB-29 and IB-37.
These latest clashes come after two secretaries of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party -- former government ministers Aung Thaung and Thein Zaw -- traveled to Kachin State capital Myitkyina to meet with members of the Kachin Nationalities Advisory Committee on July 14-15.
However, the government in Naypyidaw's indirect negotiation with the KIO through the committee seems to have been unsuccessful, while some members of the advisory border committee warned the former ministers that the situation could get worse without a political dialogue. The two former ministers told Kachin negotiators that they would report what was said at the meeting to Naypyidaw, KIA sources said.
Due to intensifying conflicts and high numbers of casualties in northern and eastern Burma, high ranking government and military officials held an emergency meeting in Naypyidaw at the weekend.
Members of the government's National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), such as President ex-Gen Thein Sein, First Vice President ex-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo and Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services Gen Min Aung Hlaing, reportedly appeared at the meeting.
Also present were Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services Lt-Gen Soe Win, Union Defense Minister Maj-Gen Hla Min, Foreign Minister ex-Col Wunna Maung Lwin, Home Minister Lt-Gen Ko Ko and Minister of Border Affairs Maj-Gen Thein Htay.
Although not strictly members of the NDSC, former ministers Aung Thaung and Thein Zaw also reportedly attended the meeting. However, NDSC member Lower House Speaker ex-Gen Shwe Mann and Upper House Speaker ex-Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint were absent.
Meanwhile, an operational meeting on ethnic issues was also held at the headquarters of the North-East Regional Military Command in Lashio. Tactical officers from the Triangle Regional Military Command, Eastern Regional Military Command and the Middle-East Regional Military Command came to the meeting, according to military sources.
KIO captures seven Burmese soldiers in fighting
Mizzima News, July 20, 2011
Seven Burmese soldiers including a captain in Infantry Unit No. 21 under the Northern Command have been captured by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
Fighting between Infantry No. 21 and KIO Battalion No. 18 and No. 23 took place along the Myitkyina-Bhamo Road at Khaya village in Waimaw Township on Saturday and Sunday. Ten Burmese soldiers were killed and the seven soldiers were captured, according to the KIO.
The seven captives were identified as Captain Tun Tun Min, Lieutenant Zaw Ye Tun, Sergeant Tin Tun, Corporal Thein Naing Oo, Lance Corporal Naing Lin Tun, Private Myo Min Soe and Private Nay Naing. Two were injured and are receiving medical treatment, according to KIO Joint Secretary La Nang.
"They were captured in the fighting in Khaya village. Some government soldiers fled. More than 10 government soldiers were killed," said La Nang. "In accordance with the captives' desire, we will let them return later. We will follow international rules and procedures. We will not harm them." Among the dead was Captain Aung Khine Win, said the KIO.
The injured captives, Lance Corporal Naing Lin Tun and Sergeant Tin Tun, are receiving treatment in Laiza Hospital, said La Nang, who said the captives would be interrogated and later returned to their units.
The KIO reportedly seize two 60-mm weapons, two MG 42 machine guns, one MA4 rocket launcher, three MA3, five MA1, nine rocket propelled grenades, four 9-mm pistols, nine landmines, seven limpet mines, seven 79-mm grenades and various ammunition.
Meanwhile, fighting between the government Light Infantry Unit No. 348 and KIO Battalion 12 under Brigade 3 broke out on Monday and Tuesday. Burmese Captain Thein Zaw Htwe and three soldiers were killed in the fighting, La Nang said. He said one KIO soldier from Battalion No. 12 was killed on Monday. He said the Burmese government's Light Infantry Unit No. 348 was reinforced with troops from Infantry No. 74.
Fighting began more than one month ago, displacing many Kachin villagers. The union government has told local nongovernmental organizations not to help the war refugees, according to La Nang. Food and medicine are urgently needed for children who are refugees, he said.
Similarly, a statement released by the Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) on Tuesday said that more than 16,000 refugees have left their homes and food and medicine are needed.
"We have many problems. We urgently need tarpaulin to built tents and we need rice. We have run out of food. Despite the help provided by local organizations and religious organizations, it is not enough," Shirley Seng, the KWAT spokeswoman, told Mizzima.
KIA Await Imminent Attack
The Irrawaddy, July 20, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is on high alert with rumors abound that Burmese government forces are planning a major assault against its headquarters in Laiza within the next three days.
Col. Zau Raw, the commander of KIA Battalion 4, which operates in northern Shan State, told The Irrawaddy that he had been told by his military sources that the Burmese army has been reinforcing its units in the area since July 16 and has positioned three military ships on the Irrawaddy River at Bhamo in southern Kachin State.
Zau Raw said he was told that government troops planned to attack the KIA headquarters within the next three days. He said the KIA was busy making preparations to protect Laiza, which is located on the Sino-Burmese border and has a settled population of approximately 6,000 people, mostly ethnic Kachins. The town has seen an influx of more than 10,000 refugees since June 9 due to an outbreak of hostilities between the KIA and government troops. An additional 6,000 Kachin refugees are currently taking shelter at makeshift camps along the China-Burma border.
Maj. Kareng Naw Awng, the administrative chief of Laiza, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he too had heard that the government forces would attack Laiza, but could not provide any further information. He said that some 300 villagers fled to the border three days ago to escape arrest by government troops who routinely detain anyone they find living on farms and force them to work as porters for the army -- a job that very often involves walking ahead of army battalions as "minesweepers."
As fears circulate that a major assault is imminent, the number of refugees seeking temporary shelter at the border is increasing. Local NGOs have called for urgent international aid.
Denied refuge in China, terrified villagers are sheltering in camps set up in
areas by the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Those cut off or otherwise unable to travel to the border camps have fled to towns deeper inside Kachin State.
Cases of sexual violence have also been reported, according to the aid groups. Shirley Seng, a spokesperson for the Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT), said, "Our people are trapped. They have no way out. Kachin networks and local churches have been helping, but it is not enough. International aid is urgently required." She said that KWAT is concerned not only for the immediate food and medical needs of the refugees, but also for their long-term survival, as many have been forced to abandon their rice fields. "A humanitarian crisis is looming in Kachin State," she said. "We need concerted international pressure, particularly from China, to force the regime to implement a nationwide ceasefire before it is too late," she added.
KIO representatives met EU officials in Bangkok earlier this month to discuss the crisis. At the meeting, the KIO said their representatives urged the EU to help alleviate the suffering of the Kachin refugees and called for the European bloc to mediate in the conflict.
KIA officials claimed 28 government troops were killed during skirmishes over the weekend in south of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, while one KIA soldier was killed and four others were wounded. The KIA also captured 11 government troops including two officers -- a captain and a lieutenant -- in the skirmishes, along with some weapons and ammunition.
Burmese troops close in on Laiza
Democratic Voice of Burma, July 21, 2011
A column of Burmese soldiers have reportedly reached a village close to the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in a sign that the group's grip on its territory in northern Burma may be weakening.
Locals in Nalon have fled four miles to the town of Laiza, the home of the KIA, after hundreds of soldiers yesterday flooded the village. A resident of Nalon said that troops had tried to sow disquiet among the population of the village, which is made up of ethnic Shan and Kachin.
"A Burmese army column from Talawgyi, estimated to be about 50 to 100-strong, has arrived in Nalon and they are inciting division among the ethnics," he said. "They were telling the Shan not to trust the Kachin as they were providing information [to the KIA] via mobile phones and warned them to inform the army when they see someone using a phone."
Concerns have also mounted that additional troops were being deployed to an outpost at Lajaryang, and that an attack on Laiza is drawing close.
Another Burmese column travelling from the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina has reached Dabatyang village, around 30 miles from Laiza. The KIA has troops stationed in a village around two miles from Dabatyang, and locals there fear fighting may be imminent.
Intense clashes have erupted across areas of Kachin state over the past two months, forcing thousands of refugees to Laiza and into China. Refusals from a multitude of armed ethnic groups to become government-controlled Border Guard Forces have engulfed parts of Burma's northern and eastern border regions in violence.
Colonel Zau Raw, commander of the KIA's Shan state-based Battalion 4, told The Irrawaddy Magazine yesterday that the Burmese army would launch an assault on Laiza before the end of the week.
The KIA last week captured five Burmese army personnel, including two officers, following an exchange of fire between the two sides on the highway connecting Myitkyina to Bhamo, where the Kachin army has a strong presence.
The Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT) issued a statement on 19 July saying that 16,000 refugees sheltering in makeshift camps along the China-Burma border are "urgently in need of aid".
"A humanitarian crisis is looming in Kachin State," said KWAT spokesperson Shirley Seng. "We need concerted international pressure, particularly from China, to force the regime to implement a nationwide ceasefire before it is too late." The same group has documented the rape of 32 women and girls by Burmese troops since fighting began on 9 June.
Burmese Military Reinforces Troops near KIO Bases
The Irrawaddy, July 22, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) said that more Burmese army trucks and military river vessels were headed toward its bases following rumors that the government troops would attack the KIO's headquarters in Laiza.
La Nan, the joint-secretary of the KIO, told The Irrawaddy on Friday, "We can say it is a risky condition. We heard many army trucks were headed to Momauk Township. Military vessels on the Irrawaddy River are also headed to Bhamo Town."
Last night, Burmese government troops from Infantry Battalion 142 fired 20 mortars, including 81 mm mortars, at the Kachin Independence Army's (KIA) Battalion 24 under Brigade 5. The KIA is the military wing of the KIO.
To cut off government troop supplies, the KIA troops destroyed a 60-foot-long bridge in Waingmaw Township two days ago.
La Nan said that he heard that Burmese air force preparations and exercises are taking place in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, adding that tanks are also patrolling the capital.
The Thailand-based Kachin News Group (KNG) reported that the government is preparing to begin a full-scale offensive against KIA bases located in Kachin State and northern Shan State. Fuel, arms and ammunition have been stockpiled at the Northern Regional Military Command, located in Myitkyina, after being transported from Mandalay by boat and train, according to the KNG report.
Meanwhile, the Burmese government, along with its Karen Border Guard Force, launched attacks, which included 81 mm mortar shelling, against the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a renegade Karen armed group, in Myawaddy Township in southern Karen State on Thursday. Local villagers are worried about further fighting between the government troops and the DKBA, which has the backing of the Karen National Union (KNU), in southern Karen state. "The fighting is likely to escalate," said Brig-Gen Johnny, the commander of Brigade 7 of the Karen National Liberation Army, the KNU's military wing.
Government troops moving closer to Laiza; heavy shelling in area
Mizzima, July 22, 2011
A Burmese government artillery unit fired more than 20 shells on Thursday at the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) headquarters in Laiza, said party secretary La Nan. The firing took place from 9 to 11 p.m. The artillery unit was based in Dawphoneyan sub-township, 25 miles from Laiza, he said.
"I think they were 81 mm and 76 mm mortars," he told Mizzima. There was no report on causalities. KIA Battalion 24 is stationed east of Dawphoneyan, he said.
The KIO dynamited two bridges on the Myitkyina-Bhamo road between Dawphoneyan and Nwanlan villages on Thursday. One of the bridges was the Bailey bridge.
"We exploded a bridge between Dawphoneyan and Khala villages and another bridge upstream near Nwamlan village. Then the government retaliated with artillery fire. One of the bridges was not destroyed," an officer told Mizzima.
The government's artillery fire could be in retaliation for destroying the bridges, he said. The KIO also destroyed a 30-foot concrete bridge on the Pa Mwe River between Gayaran and Kazu villages in Waingmaw Township on Wednesday night.
La Nan said that the KIO destroyed the bridges because of a government troop buildup with convoys from Bhamo and Myitkyina in recent days. "We got confirmation of military convoys coming to Laiza. So we destroyed these bridges," he said.
The KIO said government solders were injured in an exchange of fire between government Battalion 228 and government soldiers wearing KIO uniforms on Wednesday, which left three dead and seven wounded.
"Wearing enemy uniforms in war time is a wicked tactic. They are cunning and dishonest. And also it is a coward's act," said La Nang. He said government troops in KIO uniforms questioned and beat people on the Bhamo highway in June.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Red Cross from Yinjiang County, Yunnan Province, has donated medicine to be used for the estimated 16,000 war refugees displaced by the fighting, said a KIO health department official. "They have provided [the KIO] with a regular supply of medicine for infectious diseases such as malaria and influenza. Now the group has given medicine for our war refugees too," the official said. Refugees are suffering from dysentery, colds, eyesores, skin diseases and other ailments.
New-generation war in Myanmar
Asia Times, August 3, 2011
6. THE KIO SPEAKS
KIA wants peace despite fresh bloodshed
The Irrawaddy, June 15, 2011
Fighting between the Burmese Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) recently broke out after their 17-year ceasefire agreement.
The Irrawaddy senior reporter Wai Moe interviews La Nan, the joint-secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), to determine the immediate situation in northern Burma.
Question: How did the recent fighting begin?
Answer: At around 3 am on June 9, government troops started firing heavy weapons and approached our camp. We shot back at them at around 7 am and ceased firing at 11:45 am. They, however, continued firing at us until 12:30 pm. The fighting that day ended then and the exchange of prisoners of war (POW) followed. Tensions rose again on June 10 and they relaunched their offensive at 3:45 pm. They shot at our Battalion 15 from a distance with heavy weapons. Battalion 15 is stationed at the origin of Tarh Pin River in Momauk Township of Bhamo District in Kachin State. The shooting is still going on.
Q: What are the casualties from both sides so far?
A: on June 9, two soldiers from our side were wounded. We already have evidence that one of our men who was captured by the other side was beaten to death. So, two wounded and one POW that day, but the POW was already killed by the time he was returned to us. His whole body was covered by wounds and his face was swollen so badly that we couldn't even recognize who he was.
On their side, one officer and three soldiers died. I don't know how to describe his title correctly -- whether he is a captain or a major. He was given the salary of a major and was soon to become deputy commander of a battalion. Also, one captain and eight soldiers [on the government side] were wounded.
On June 10, three soldiers from our side died. They [government troops] used heavy weapons so we had to stay inside bunkers and fought back from there. Our soldiers died by pieces of shrapnel from a shell that hit a tree above their bunker. We have no other causalities. We heard many soldiers from their side were wounded.
Residents in Momauk and Bhamo told us that wounded soldiers were taken to hospitals there and were under guard. They said around 30 soldiers were admitted to hospitals on the first day of fighting. Clashes went on the whole day on June 11 and 12 so I guess that, if around 30 were wounded per day, there would now be nearly 100 injured. I still can't confirm the number but people in Bhamo tell me this is how it is.
Q: KIO liaison offices were reportedly seized by government troops recently. Is this true?
A: No, it wasn't like that. On June 9, one of our members, who was assigned in our liaison office located near the hydropower plant in Hsan Gan, was arrested by government authorities. He was then beaten and killed, and his body was left in front of our office like an animal for two days.
We opened our liaison offices to deal with the government through diplomatic means. But they [Burmese authorities] treated our members on diplomatic missions however they wanted—which involves arrests, beatings and killings.
So we became very much concerned about the safety of our members living in our main and liaison offices in Myitkyina. Thus, we withdrew them overnight on June 10. The government didn't order us to close down our office, but we just shut it by ourselves.
We don't have a liaison office in Momauk but fighting is going on in that area. When clashes broke out, our office in Myitkyina took care of communications between the KIO and the government's Northern Command. Our staff in the Myitkyina office are in [the government] circle so instead of "closing down" the office it would be more appropriate to say that we have called back our staff to our headquarters. If necessary, we will revitalize our liaison office later.
Q: How are you going to handle electricity distribution in Myitkyina as it was taken care of by the KIO?
A: Our electricity distribution prioritizes people living in Myitkyina and Waingmaw cities. We don't make any profit from the distribution, which is handled by the KIO's company Bokha Co. Ltd. Our company obtained an official permit from the then State Law and Order Restoration Council and opened an office in Myitkyina. We called back our members from that office on June 10 as well but we couldn't shut it down completely because local people there would be in great trouble.
There are civilian employees in the office so we asked them to continue the distribution. We only withdrew our members who are in leading positions. The remaining staff are not KIO members so I don't think it will be any major risk for them to stay. We have only made losses in electricity distribution but have continued just for the comfort of local people.
Q: How about the situation in Laiza where the KIO headquarters are based?
A: Before talking about this, let me continue what I was saying earlier. It seems that they [government troops] want to capture the mountain where our Battalion 15 is stationed by hook or by crook. It seems that they want to be based there. That's why they used all their troops available in Kachin State to attack that place. For us, we want to reduce the clashes—we want no clashes at all. So, we only resisted their offensive with the strength we had in Battalion 15 and didn't make the fighting bigger by adding more of our troops from elsewhere.
Our Battalion 25 is stationed within sight of Battalion 15. I think they have deployed about ten battalions, moving back and forth to attack us. We considered the current problem quite big enough and there would be battles across the Kachin State if we deployed more troops, that's why we didn't do so.
I am not sure if they were concerned about the deployment of our troops from Laiza or have other plans, but they have certainly deployed more and more troops. For instance, they have carried heavy weapons from Myitkyna and blocked our exits. Based on their movements, I can say that they are likely to expand the battles while we are trying not to engage in further clashes.
Q: Will it be possible to regain a ceasefire agreement between the two parties?
A: A former minister from Naypyidaw rang us on Sunday. I don't want to mention his name. He called one of us and asked him to control our troops. He said if we don't the whole country may become embroiled in war and that he will discuss the matter with the president. Our man replied that there will be many changes within the next two days and they must stop their offensive and reduce their plans for attack if they are really willing for no more clashes. [The former minister] then said he will report back to his seniors in their meeting [on Monday] and let us know how it goes. But we have not received any reply so far.
Kachin Independence Organization, Press Statement, June 20, 2011
People in Kachin State are hereby informed with this statement.
1. Fighting are ongoing between KIA and Myanma Tatmadaw since 9th June 2011.
2. KIO does not want the people to face hardships.
3. This statement is in response to the false news published in the
Mirror newspapers on 17th June.
4. On 8th June, KIA asked to stop one army sergeant and one police
private namely Ye Naing for trespassed into the frontline area of KAI
Brigade 3, regiment 15. The army sergeant fled and the policeman was
5. At 14: 30 pm, fully armed and equipped army Captain Myat Ko Ko and
Lieutenant Ko Ko Win trespassed into KIO territory and they were also
6. The Northern Regional Military Command Commander contacted and
asked KIA to release those who are detained by KIA. In the same time,
more troops were sent and military preparations were carried out by
7. No 9th June 3 am, troops from Burmese army regiments 437 & 348 have
arrived to Sang Gan Village and started attacking KIA frontline
8. At 5 am, the Burmese army surrounded KIA's liaison office in Sang
Gan Village and arrested Lance Corporal Chang Yein.
9. KIA ordered its frontline troops of Regiment 15 to retreat and
reinforce troops in Bon Hsin Camp. Until this time, there is no
shooting from the side of KIA.
10. Burmese army columns advanced to Bon Sin Camp and started firing
at KIA troops. At 7 am on 9th June, KIA returned fire.
11. At around 8 am, northern regional command contacted KIO HQ and
said if KIA releases those captured, Burmese army will release KIO
12. KIO replied to send official letter, the reply from Burmese army
was "there is no reason to send official letter."
13. The northern regional command again contacted at 11:00 am.
14. Upon bilateral negotiations, KIA ceased fire at 11:45 and the
Burmese army stop firing at 12:30 pm.
15. Burmese army informed KIO that the detained Lance Corporal Chang
Yein had died due to incessant bleeding from wounds sustained during
the fight and returned his weapons at around 17:45.
16. It was obvious that the Burmese frontline troops have lied to
their superiors since Lance Corporal Chang Yein was captured in the
liaison office not during a fight.
17. However, KIO tolerated and peacefully returned Capt. Myat Ko Ko,
Lieutenant Ko Ko Win, police private Ye Naing together with their
weapons at 18: 34 hrs on 9th June. Until now, the northern command has
not release any of KIO members detained.
18. On the same day at 1600 hrs, Moe Meik tactical commander Col. Aung
Toe asked to cross in front of KIA outpost to inspect and stay one
night in Tapaing Hydropower Plant. KIO HQ agreed and gave permission.
19. KIO HQ had to asked several times to return the body of Lance
Corporal Chang Yein and the body was finally returned at 1455 hrs on
20. It was found that Lance Corporal Chang Yein was brutally tortured
all over his body and killed.
21. Northern Command informed KIO that Col. Aung Toe and his troops
will not leave Tapaing Hydropower Plant and demanded that KIA troops
leave Bon Hsin Camp.
22. Not only the tactical commander did not leave the hydropower
plant, more troops from light infantry regiments 237, 320, 348, 387,
236, 74, 21, 105, 321, 141 & 37 were reinforced to the area.
23. An ultimatum was given that KIA troops to leave the camp by 1200
hrs on 11th June.
24. It is hereby informed to the people that fighting have continued
until this time due to the inevitable situations.
Information Department, Laiza
'We will not make any offer for a cease-fire'
Mizzima, June 22, 2011
Mizzima reporter Ko Wild interviews Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) spokesman and Joint Secretary La Nan on the recent fighting between government and KIO troops in Kachin State.
Question: The KIO recently received a letter from the Kachin State Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) secretary 2 and Kachin State MP Thein Zaw proposing a cease-fire.
Answer: Thein Zaw sent a letter to us saying that their Northern Command had issued its order to troops on the frontline to cease fire unless the KIO troops shot first. The KIO was advised to issue a similar order to its troops. Thein Zaw sent this letter in his capacity as a Myitkyina Township constituency MP.
In our return letter, we asked them to produce a guarantee from a responsible person in the military establishment to confirm the cease-fire order given to their troops. Thein Zaw's letter just said that he had already informed the Northern Command commander and the commander had already issued cease-fire orders to the troops. But this doesn't mean a military officer sent the letter. So we told them we would reconsider this issue when we receive a letter written by a military officer guaranteeing issuance of the cease-fire order. We received their letter on Sunday and replied on the same day by e-mail. We have received acknowledgment of the receipt of our letter from them.
Q: Did you send a letter to Naypyitaw or inform them by some other means?
A: We will not make any offer for a cease-fire. We replied to their letter only when we received it from the Kachin Nationality Consultative Council members who visited us.
Q: How many government troops are in Kachin State now?
A: There are total of about 30 local battalions. All are on full alert for combat readiness. Since the fighting started, more troops are being sent here from other provinces. It's difficult to estimate the exact troop number. They used 11 battalions on June 11 when we fought them on that day, but they were not at full strength. Each battalion had a mere 40 to 60 troops, maximum 80.
Q: There are reports that the government troops were committing rape. Can you confirm this?
A: Yes, it really happens in our state. Sometimes the reason behind the flight of the refugees is the rape issue. The war refugees who flee to us are not just from conflict zones. The government troops are stationed in their villages, and they beat the men on suspicion of being KIO supporters. Then they rape girls and women, and they don't even spare old women. When this news spreads to other villages, the people from nearby villages in government-controlled areas flee to our controlled area.
Q: Can you give an example of such rape cases being committed by government troops?
A: For instance, there is Kharun Mudan village in Lweje Township in our 3rd Brigade area. The village is Lisu. The government troops raped a girl and shot her dead in the presence of her parents. Her parents fled to China in fear of further persecution. We learned of this incident from people living in China. They could not identify the army unit of the perpetrators. We are trying hard to get this information in detail. Our women organizations are investigating this case.
Q: The government said it launched its offensive to stop you from harassing the Tapein hydropower project area.
A: The KIO troops have been stationed and deployed in this Tapein hydropower project area for 30 or 40 years and they understand the situation. First, they brought in Immigration Department officials to check on the influx of Chinese labour into this area. Then they brought in a police force to protect the Immigration officials. Then the military troops entered the area. This is how they expand into our area. But there were no problems between our troops and the Burmese army units.
We never kidnapped or threatened the Chinese labours and engineers. We have had friendly relations with Chinese officials along the border for many years. Not only now. The KIO is a dignified organization. The Chinese companies and Chinese officials are aware of our dignity and sincerity.
Q: Can us tell us more about the Chinese workers at the Lasa hydropower project?
A: This project is still underway. There are two tributaries, the Maykha and Malikha, upstream of Myitsone (the confluence of the Irrawaddy River). The project is located just below Sumprabum and upstream of Maylikha. It is in our 1st Brigade controlled area.
There were no government positions and outposts in this area before. The government troops entered the area when the Chinese engineers and workers came in for this project. We had an understanding with them. But the Chinese engineers and workers did some exploring and mining operations for some metals and minerals besides their main work on the hydropower project. There are gold deposits and other mineral and metal ores in the area. Then we expelled these Chinese mining units from the area.
Q: How many big hydropower projects are underway in Kachin State?
A: Among them, the Irrawaddy Myitsone project is the largest. As I said, there will be another in the Lasa area. There will be four to five similar projects on the Maykha River. All of the electricity generated by these hydropower projects will be sold to China and the local people will not receive any benefits from the projects. Chinese companies and Asia World Company are implementing the projects in collaboration.
Q: How do the Chinese workers enter these project areas? Do they cross KIO-controlled areas?
A: The Chinese who work upstream of Irrawaddy and Myitsone enter the project areas through Kanpaiti pass. The New Democratic Army-Kachin controlled this area in the past. The Chinese working on the Tapein project enter their project area through Yinjiang and Lwejie. They do not need to pass through our control area.
Q: How many KIO troops and officials have been captured or arrested by the government?
A: More than ten. They are detaining many more on suspicion of having contact with us. No one has been released yet. Then chief of Military Affairs Security (MAS) Major General Ye Myint arrested all of them after September 30, 2010. Now he has become the Mandalay Region chief minister, and he was responsible for the arrests. One person who was arrested after June 9 was Lance Corporal Chein Yan, who was later brutally killed by them.
Q: The government has said that the Constitution could be amended in Parliament. Do you think this offers some hope for a change in the government's methods?
A: In fact they made the Constitution rigid and non-amendable. Thirteen armed ethnic organizations that attended the constitution drafting convention submitted papers on this issue. The KIO was one of them. But the government did not listen to our ideas, and they didn't make any compromise or accommodation to our demands and requests. So it's impossible to accept their Constitution because it does not reflect any considerations of the ethnic populations' needs. Amending this Constitution in Parliament is a mission impossible.
Q: How many refugees are there in KIO camps now?
A: More than 10,000 refugees are in our KIO-controlled area. They came from government-controlled areas. First, they fled to China when the war broke out. Then the Chinese officials cleverly urged and persuaded them to go back to their homes by saying that there was no more fighting in their villages. China has not yet built any refugee camps on their soil. The KIO provides assistance to the refugees in our camps as much as we can.
7. HUMAN RIGHTS
Kachin women demand immediate end to Burmese regime's use of rape as a weapon of war in northern Burma offensive
Kachin Women's Association Thailand, Press Release, June 21, 2011
Detailed reports: www.kachinwomen.org/
The Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) is demanding an immediate end to the Burmese military regime's widespread use of sexual violence in their offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Burma.
At least eighteen women and girls have been gang-raped between June 10-18, 2011 during Burma Army advances on KIA strongholds along the China-Burma border. Four of these women were killed after being raped, one in front of her husband, who was tied up and forced to watch. Another woman died from her injuries during rape.
Soldiers from five different battalions (Light Infantry Battalion 437 and Infantry Battalions 237, 141, 142, 139 and 437) committed the rapes, in four townships of Bhamo District. Two particularly brutal incidents took place on June 18. In Dum Bung village, Mo Mauk township of Bhamo, soldiers of LIB 437 caught three families who had not managed to flee in time. 6 women and girls were gang- raped, and 7 small children killed. In Je Sawn village, Man Si township of Bhamo, soldiers of LIB 139 killed a 7-year-old girl and then gang-raped and killed her grandmother.
These incidents are not random acts of violence, said KWAT spokesperson Shirley Seng. The Burma Army is committing gang-rape and killing on a wide scale. It is clear they are acting under orders.
KWAT demands that the regime immediately stops using rape as a weapon of war, ends the offensive against Kachin and other ethnic groups, and withdraws from the ethnic areas. KWAT is also urging China to provide refuge and humanitarian aid to those fleeing, and to mediate in the conflict.
The regime is committing atrocities on China doorstep, and destabilizing the border area, said Shirley Seng. We believe it is in China's interest to mediate towards a genuine resolution of the political root causes of the conflict.
See attached map and list of details of rape incidents.
Contact persons: Shirley Seng + 66 86- 9238- 854
Moon Nay Li + 66 85- 6251- 912
Email:email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) is a non profit-making organization working on behalf of Kachin women. We have a vision of a Kachin State where all forms of discrimination are eliminated; where all women are empowered to participate in decision making at a local, national and international level; and where all Kachin children have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Kachin in New Delhi make six-point demand for war victims
Mizzima, June 24, 2011
Kachin refugees in New Delhi on Friday made a six-point demand that included asking the Burmese military to stop torturing and raping war victims, according to protesters.
More than 120 protesters staged a two-hour demonstration in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. The protesters also included Chin, Arakanese and Burmese.
The protesters said they would send a letter to the Burmese Embassy in India. According to the statement released on June 21 by the Thailand based Kachin Women's Association, during an eight-day period between June 10 to June 18, 18 women in Kachin State were raped and four were murdered by government soldiers.
'We made demands that included urging international countries to support the Kachin war refugees', Zaw Yaw from the New Delhi-based Kachin Refugee Committee (KRC) told Mizzima.
The six demands are:
- The government should stop arresting, torturing and raping people in Kachin State.
- The government should stop military offensives in Kachin State.
- The international community should not recognize the army-backed Burmese government.
- The government should stop torturing people in all ethnic areas.
- The government should stop military offensives in all ethnic areas.
- International countries should support war victims in Kachin State.
Because of fighting between government troops and KIA, which started on June 9, more than 13,000 war refugees have fled to Laiza, the headquarters of the KIA. There are more than 40 war refugees in New Delhi.
Kachin in India and the UK, Denmark, Norway and other countries simultaneously staged protests to show their support for Kachin war refugees.
Burma's Vice-President implicated in Kachin massacres
The Irrawaddy, July 15, 2011
Burma's Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo should be investigated by a United Nations' Commission of Inquiry for his role as regional commander during a series of brutal massacres in Shan State, says the leadership of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
In interviews conducted last week with The Irrawaddy at their military headquarters in Laiza, Kachin State, three of the influential leaders of the KIA -- retired Col. James Lum Dung, Brig-Gen Gun Maw, and Col. Zau Raw -- laid out detailed reports with maps and graphs that they said proves conclusively that the Burmese army committed atrocities against Kachin soldiers and civilians over the past 10 years.
The first and second of these massacres, according to the KIA, came in 2001 under the watch of Burma's new vice-president who was Northeast Regional Commander at that time.
Asked why evidence of such atrocities had never before been reported, the KIA leaders said that they had not publicized the massacres to avoid destroying the fragile political process during the 17-year ceasefire and while the constitution was being drafted.
Collectively and individually, the KIA leaders said that now that the ceasefire has been broken by the Burmese army, and that all hope of political negotiation has broken down, the KIA wants to present its allegations to the UN, and claims that the four mass killings and three summary executions constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
According to the KIA's documentation, which is written in Kachin language, the first incident occurred in March 2001, in the countryside a few kilometers from Lau Jai village in Mung Si District, which is in Muse Township in northern Shan State.
The area was at the time openly under the control of the KIA. At 9 am on March 22, four KIA soldiers on patrol came across a unit of approximately 100 Burmese infantry troops of Division 242 led by Maj. Khin Maung Hla, the commander of Kutkai Military Command in Muse.
Initially, the Burmese patrol requested the KIA soldiers to guide them to the village of Shauk Haw. Before reaching the village, the four Kachin soldiers were attacked, disarmed and tied up. At around 2 pm, they were all shot dead. Their bodies were half-buried on top of each other in a shallow grave in the forest.
The KIA recovered the corpses one month later. They recorded the deceased as: Sergeant Zatau Dau Hawng, and private soldiers Laphai Zau Bawk, Dashi Nawng Hkum and Kareng Tu Lum. The KIA report says a formal funeral was held for the four on April 22, 2001.
On the same day, a harrowing scene was played out at a small agricultural farm in Mung Si District in Shan State. The KIA report lists the plot in the hamlet of Nawng Tau Si Sa Pa, and says the farm was run by the KIA's 2,000-strong Battalion 4, as part of a regional development program initiated after the ceasefire in 1994.
It is alleged that a column of 70 Burmese troops approached the farm and requested a meeting with Second Lieutenant Hpuwang Naw Seng of the KIA. However, as Naw Seng was otherwise engaged, the KIA's Warrant Officer Lt. Gam Seng went out to meet the Burmese unit which was led by Lt. Col. Nyo Win from Light Infantry Division 242 -- the very same unit accused of involvement in the executions in Muse.
As soon as Gam Seng came before the Burmese troops, he was allegedly grabbed and tied up. Simultaneously, Burmese government troops broke into the farmhouse and arrested four KIA soldiers, including Naw Seng, and two civilians.
According to the KIA records, the captives were taken to a nearby forest and physically tortured throughout the night. They were all dead by the following morning.
Some weeks later, the KIA recovered the seven bodies in a swamp. Each had multiple stab wounds, which the KIA said were inflicted by bayonets. Each of the bodies showed evidence of burning to the genitals. On some trees nearby, the KIA found samples of the victims' hair mixed with blood.
They concluded the captives had been tied to the trees, tortured, stabbed and burned, before being killed.
"The soldiers were so severely beaten up that their bodies were just a pile of broken bones," the report describes. "Their dead bodies were stamped on and crushed into the mud near a creek."
The victims were named as: Second Lt. Naw Seng, Warrant Officer Gam Seng, Lance Corporal Aik Nyi, private soldiers Nhkum Ban Aung Mai and Ma Aik Nai. One civilian was a Kachin man, Zum Zang Hawng Lum, who was the nephew of Col. James Lum Dung, the then head commander of KIA Battalion 4 operating in northern Shan State. The other civilian was identified only as a Chinese man.
In his interview with The Irrawaddy in Laiza last week, Col. James Lum Dung -- who took up arms against the Burmese troops in 1961 and retired as the KIA regional military commander in 2007 -- said the killings were a deliberate provocation by the Burmese troops under the supervision of Tin Aung Myint Oo. "Their motive was to drive our troops out of Shan State," said James Lum Dung. "Tin Aung Myint Oo was mainly responsible for these killings."
In seeking an explanation for the killings, James Lum Dung said he went to Lashio in Shan State in 2001 to confront Tin Aung Myint Oo. "He made no response whatsoever when I told him about the unprovoked massacres, " James Lum Dung said. "Instead, he offered me 100,0000 kyat [US $1,000]. I did not accept it."
"We were furious about what had happened, but our leaders decided to wait for the completion of the constitution-drafting process," he said, referring to the military-sponsored constitution that was not completed until 2008, and which was later rejected by the Kachin leadership for its exclusion of rights for ethnic minorities.
Documentation for a third incident alleged to have taken place in August 2005 in Hwak Kai village in the Kutkai district of Muse Township was presented by the KIA to The Irrawaddy. By this time, Tin Aung Myint Oo was no longer regional commander; Maj-Gen Myint Hlaing, the current minister for Agriculture and Irrigation, was overseeing operations.
Falsely accused of illegally collecting taxes from local traders, the KIA's administrative officer U Sang Lu, 50, was arrested and taken away by Col. San Shwe Thar of the Burmese army's Northeast Regional Command.
U Sang Lu was found dead the following day with three bullet wounds. His skull and two of his ribs were fractured, and the skin on his wrist had been torn away. "It was a groundless murder," the document said. "The KIO [the political wing of the KIA] has long collected tax from local businesses. U Sang Lu was performing a routine duty, but was ruthlessly killed."
It is alleged that the following year, five KIA soldiers and one civilian were killed in cold blood by Burmese government troops, this time in the Bum Pri Bum area of Kutkai in southern Muse Township.
On Jan. 2, 2006, a Burmese army patrol of 12 soldiers led by Maj. Hla Moe from Infantry Division 68 allegedly arrived at a KIA administrative office in Bum Pri Bum. "While our soldiers prepared to serve the Burmese troops with drinks, they were all shot dead in the office and in the kitchen," the record states. The KIA document goes on to say that the Burmese unit immediately called in reinforcements, and prevented the KIA from entering the area and collecting the remains.
Led by Brig-Gen Gun Maw, who is the current KIA deputy military chief, a Kachin military delegation met with Burmese army officers and asked to recover the bodies of the murdered KIA soldiers. They were permitted to collect the bodies on Jan. 6 only to find the bodies had already been cremated. Gun Maw said they were presented with "bags of ashes."
The victims were recorded in the KIA records as: administrative officer Laban Gam Hpang, Sergeant Brang Mai, office staffers Zahkwng Kawang Hkam, Maran Tu Shan and Brang Shawng, and a civilian from the village named as Aik Nyunt.
Col. Zau Raw, the current commander of KIA Battalion 4 operating in Shan State, told The Irrawaddy he clearly recalls the incident in 2006. He said the Burmese military officials later offered up an excuse that the KIA soldiers were mistaken for members of an armed militia which had not signed a ceasefire agreement with the government.
"We suppressed our emotions in those days, because we were waiting for some sort of political result from the constitution," said Zau Raw, adding that he remembers crying as he led the funeral for the slaughtered men.
Zau Raw was one of the KIA's highest ranking officials who participated in the constitution-drafting process. He said that despite the murders, the KIA has abided by a code of ethics, and has returned Burmese soldiers that they arrested during recent clashes to their units.
The KIA presented documentation for two other killings in October 2005 when two KIA administrators were murdered by Burmese soldiers in Shan State in separate incidents.
The KIA officials accuse former Gen. Myint Hlaing, who is the current minister for Agriculture and Irrigation, of responsibility for the killings in 2005 and 2006 as he was regional commander at the time.
Gen. Gun Maw said that KIA leaders did not previously attempt to draw international attention to those incidents because they did not want to impede the political process that they hoped would bring autonomy to Kachin State.
Gun Maw said that the Burmese army leadership has long exercised a systematic policy of extra-judicial killings against the KIA. "Our soldiers did not die in vain," he said, adding that the news that one of his soldiers, who was arrested by Burmese soldiers last month in a KIA liaison office and brutally killed, has received international attention which will add weight to the KIA's demands during negotiations with the Naypyidaw government.
As opposed to the 1994 ceasefire with the Burmese government, the KIA said it has made it clear that any future ceasefire talks with the government must include meaningful political dialogue -- otherwise they will continue fighting.
Indeed, negotiations for a ceasefire may already be doomed. Many Kachins cannot forgive the Burmese army for the murders, and many find it galling that the KIA would sit down with a government delegation, especially if it includes Tin Aung Myint Oo.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, ex-Maj Aung Lynn Htut, who defected to the US in March 2005, described Tin Aung Myin Oo as "a butcher," but also attributed the unprovoked massacres to a strategic policy of trying to inflict a stranglehold over the armed ethnic groups over the past decade.
According to Aung Lynn Htut, the incidents were partly related to Tin Aung Myint Oo's hostile attitude toward the ethnic armies. "He was well-known as 'The Butcher' in the army," he said. "He was always quick to slap his subordinates in the face, and he constantly reiterated a mantra of 'Root out the enemy at all costs!'"
He said that another factor that contributed toward the massacres was that since early 2000, former military chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe had been ordering regional military commanders to tackle harshly the armed ethnic groups, including the KIA, and expand Burmese army presence in the ethnic areas -- in preparation for a violation of the ceasefires and a resumption of hostilities.
The KIA officers presented the common view that Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo plays a critical role in the current armed conflicts. According to Col. Zau Raw and the other KIA officials, the massacres they described to The Irrawaddy should be investigated by the UN and international bodies responsible for deciding whether to proceed with the proposed Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"We call on the United Nations to investigate these incidents," said Zau Raw. "We will never forget them."
Families in Kachin war zone ordered out
July 28, Democratic Voice of Burma
Several villages located in a zone of heavy fighting in Kachin state have been ordered by Burmese army commanders to relocate as thousands of people continue to be displaced by conflict in Burma's north.
More than 20,000 people are thought to have been uprooted from their homes since fighting between Burmese forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) began on 9 June. The latest victims of displacement hail from Momauk township near the Chinese border, close to where fighting first broke out.
"[The Burmese army] said they didn't want to see anyone in those areas," a man in Laiza, headquarters of the KIA, told DVB. He claimed to have been assisting the thousands who have fled to Laiza, but said that those ordered to leave Momauk have been forced to shelter in towns further north such as Magayang.
Otherwise, he said, the government had given them a three-day deadline in which to get to the Kachin capital of Myitkyina, which lies within Burmese government territory.
According to reports from Laiza, around 200 refugees fleeing to Myitkyina and Waingmaw are currently stranded after fighting broke out close to the state capital.
Those who made it to Laiza however are facing the threat of further upheaval, as Burmese troops edge closer to the town. Reports last week suggested that army columns had reached within four miles of the group's headquarters, and had been pounding nearby KIA bases with heavy artillery.
But the relocation of the Momauk township may be far from a benevolent move by the government, which is famed for its Four Cuts military strategy that seeks to destroy the supply lines that support opposition forces. Civilians who live in territory controlled by ethnic armies are often seen as sympathisers, and either forced out or killed.
Local aid groups in Kachin state are said to be struggling with the flood of refugees. The Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT) issued a statement on 19 July saying that a humanitarian crisis was looming for the 16,000 refugees sheltering in makeshift camps along the China-Burma border, who are "urgently in need of aid".
To date no international aid groups have accessed the region, perhaps in part due to strict government controls that hinder the movement of aid workers during sensitive times.
Kachin Conflict Sparks Refugee Situation
The Irrawaddy, June 15, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
As fighting escalated on Wednesday between Burmese government forces and Kachin rebels, more than 1,000 civilians sheltered around the Sino-Burmese border after fleeing their homes to escape the fighting, while about 200 crossed into China, and an unknown number hid in the jungle or were displaced elsewhere.
Several villages were like "ghost towns" after all the residents fled as the conflict neared, said Seng Aung, a source in Laiza, the headquarters of Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is resisting the Burmese army.
Most of the displaced villagers and refuge-seekers were from Momauk, Bhamo, Mansi, Waingmaw and areas near Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.
According to community relief workers on the Chinese border, more than 1,000 people, mostly ethnic Kachin, had attempted to cross into China, but only 200 -- mostly the elderly, children and mothers -- were allowed in by the Chinese border security forces.
Sources said the Chinese authorities confiscated telephones from refuge-seekers entering the country, and told them not to try to make contact with anyone while they were in China. In the meantime, several local NGOs and community-based organizations in Laiza are supporting those fleeing their homes. One committee member told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that there is a food and medical supply shortage.
A Chinese activist working with an NGO in Beijing told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that his friends who operate businesses near the Sino-Burmese border had returned home due to the ongoing conflict.A Chinese website, The People Net, reported that armed clashes had broken out around Tapai hydropower station in Kachin State, which is constructed by a Chinese company. More than 100 Chinese engineers and other construction workers reportedly evacuated the site and returned to China immediately.
Around 200 villagers from Up N-Hkawng Pa village have been displaced into the jungle as they cannot cross into China or enter the border town of Mai Ja Yang, said local sources. A few days ago, more than 1,000 villagers moved into Mai Ja Yang, a Kachin town bordering China, and more people were attempting to seek refuge there, said the sources. "Fighting broke out in my village, Katsu, at 2 am [on Wednesday]," said Naw La, a Kachin student. "Most of the villagers had already fled." Katsu has around 100 households and is located on the route connecting Bhamo and Myitkyina. "About 500 people from Katsu fled to Myitkyina and Wai Maw," said Naw La. "Some are hiding in the jungle. Others went to their relatives' towns. Many headed for China."
Battles in northern Burma erupted last Thursday after negotiations broke down between the KIA and the Burmese army over a hostage situation. The clashes escalated since then and could lead to a civil war, said observers.
The KIA signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1994. However, the agreement informally broke down last year after sporadic fighting broke out.
Kachin fighting forces farmers to abandon their farms; refugees flee
Mizzima, June 16, 2011
Following seven-days of fierce fighting between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), local farmers and refugees are fleeing the area. Many are crossing into China.
Farmers from areas around Moemauk, Waimaw, Dawphoneyan, Manshi, Laiza and Myitkyina have stopped their normal work on preparing their fields prior to the planting season.
The former treasurer of the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), Muyin Daung Khaung, who lives in Myitkyina, told Mizzima that he saw about 70 farmers leaving the area with their belongings.
The farmers in the area generally grow rice on the mountain sides using the slash-and-burn method. 'Leaving their farmlands means ruining their livelihood', he said. 'All these farmers are going back to their homes and abandoning their farmland. If the war continues for a long time, the people will face a food shortage in the coming months', Muyin Daung Khaung said.
People in the area are very frightened, he said. 'The commodity prices are rising as the transport routes are disrupted by the war. If the situation remains unchanged for two more days, commodity prices will increase'.
A resident in Laiza, the KIA stronghold, said many people are fleeing to Ruili on and Jie Gong on the Chinese side of the China-Burma border. 'They are afraid the government troops will force them to serve as porters in their military operations', he said. He said reports estimated that 15,000 people had fled to China.
Most of the people leaving for China are old and elderly, women and children. Many had made preparations earlier by renting houses or telling relatives they planned to evacuate if fighting broke out. 'They left able-bodied men as caretakers of their homes', said a man who is preparing to flee.
According to local sources in Moemauk and Bhamo where the current fighting started on June 9, government troops suffered heavy casualties. Sources said the troops used local people and convicts as porters.
A Kachin leader said the government may send two more army divisions to the war theatre and it may use air power to support its ground troops.
An area resident said, 'We have had many sleepless nights. We are in constant fear of shells falling on our homes. I can't sleep whenever I hear explosions on the outskirts of our town'.
On Tuesday, all passenger buses and trucks stopped their services in the war zone. One passenger bus on the Laiza-Myitkyina route left the bus terminal on Wednesday.
A KIO spokesperson complained that the state government and the Kachin political parties that supported the central government have been silent during the hostilities. The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) or White Tiger party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the National Unity Party (NUP), the Unity and Democracy Party are not available at this time of crisis, he said.
He said, 'These parties formed at the behest of the government and all of them are pro-junta. They don't do anything for their supporters now when they face difficulties. We cannot expect anything from them'. He said there had been little local media coverage in state-run publications.
Kachin Displaced by Conflict in Need of Food, Medicine
The Irrawaddy, June 21, 2011
Sai Zom Hseng
Around 2,000 Kachin war refugees who have fled recent fighting between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) are now in need of food, shelter and medical assistance, according to relief groups.
Seven local Kachin groups are assisting the refugees and have already formed a committee to assist the fleeing villagers. The committee is responsible for distributing food and small amounts of medicine donated by other villages in the area.
People from around 60 villages have fled their homes since the fighting began nearly two weeks ago. Most are living in the jungle, while some are receiving assistance from relatives living in villages outside the conflict zone, according to Mai Ja of the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, one of the groups engaged in relief efforts near the Sino-Burmese border.
"We provide food and a small amount of medicine donated by other villages, but it isn't enough. They are still hiding in the jungle, and many are in need of medical assistance," said Mai Ja, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
"We are especially concerned about the spread of malaria, flu and diarrhea. There are already many cases of diarrhea, although no one has died from it yet," she said, adding that there have been reports of the disease at almost every location where the refugees are staying.
Most of the refugees are from Momauk, Bhamo, Mansi and Waingmaw townships. A few are from villages near Laiza, where the headquarters of the KIA and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), is located.
According to La Nan, the joint-secretary of the KIO, there are plans to build three camps for the refugees in the area controlled by KIA Brigade 3. The camps will be in the villages of U Ra Pa, Na Ya Pa and Naw Hpar in Momauk Township. All are about one day's walking distance from the conflict area.
"Right now, we are able to provide some food -- basically just rice, salt and oil -- and a small amount of medicine. We can't solve all of their problems, but we will do as much as we can to help the refugees," said La Nan.
Meanwhile, there have been reports that some refugees who crossed into China nearly a week ago have been forced to return. "The Chinese authorities told them that fighting had stopped in their area, so they were told to go back," said Mai Ja.
Clashes between the Burmese army and the KIA erupted on June 9, after negotiations between the two sides over a hostage situation broke down. According to a KIA statement released on Monday, the Burmese army fired the first shot.
However, according to the state-owned New Light of Myanmar, the KIA initiated the conflict. "Tatmadaw [Burmese army] columns inevitably counterattack KIA troops for their threats and armed attacks," read the headline of a report published in the newspaper on Saturday.
On Sunday, KIA troops destroyed a Burmese intelligence outpost in Bhamo Township. Since then, the situation has been quiet but tense. There has been no official contact between the two sides since the government sent four Kachin leaders to Laiza as intermediaries to call for a cease-fire on Friday. In response, the KIA asked the government to provide some evidence that it has ordered its army to stop firing.
KIO camps now sheltering 13,000 war refugees
Mizzima, June 24, 2011
Te Te and Phanida
The number of war refugees fleeing from the war zone in Kachin State has reached more than 13,000 since war broke out between government troops and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), according to the KIO.
KIO central committee member and refugee relief committee head Dwe Pee Sar said that more 5,000 refugees are now in Laiza; more than 2,300 in the Monyin District KIO 5th Battalion area; and more than 6,000 refugees in the 3rd Battalion area.
'Most of the refugees are from places along the Myitkyina-Bhamo highway', Dwe Pee Sar said. Refugees are being located in various buildings, at the Laiza town hall, the No.3 marketplace and in empty apartments and shops.
Refugees, including about 700 children, are being provided rice and medicine, KIO spokesman La Nan told Mizzima. He said the refugees are not receiving any assistance from other organizations.
War broke out between government troops and the KIO on June 9. Large numbers of refugees have also fled across the Sino-Burma border. Most of the refugees are children, women and elderly people who need food and shelter, said the KIO.
Following is a summary of the refugee situation:
The major expense for refugees is food. The KIO provides two empty cans of rice (about 0.57 Kg) per refugee each day. They prepare their meals themselves with whatever extra food they can buy at a market. The KIO provides water and some firewood. Those who do not have money have to survive on the KIO food ration. The KIO spends more than 2 million kyat (US$ 2,548) daily on food supplies.
Many refugees have no mats, blankets or mosquito nets with them and they sleep on a concrete floor. The KIO provides some mats.
Many children are sick when they reach the camps, suffering from diarrhea, malaria, common cold and coughs. The KIO health department provides free medical care in the camps. Eight children have been hospitalized with diarrhea. Children also have skin diseases, measles and trachoma. Medical supplies are adequate now for the refugees but it will be difficult if more refugees reach the camps and heavy rain continues, causing more illnesses.
The KIO tries to continue the children's education while they live in the camps. Some students are sent to schools in Laiza. There are plans to build a new school in the refugee camp area.
No agency is providing additional assistance at this time. The KIO has requested aid from local organizations and foreign NGOs.
Kachin State Refugees Face Uncertain Future
The Irrawaddy, July 1, 2011
Beneath a makeshift roof in the drizzling rain, a funeral ceremony took place on Friday for an eight-year-old Kachin boy who died the night before from diarrhea -- the first casualty among the estimated 15,400 refugees living in five camps in and around Laiza, Kachin State, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
A week ago, the boy fled with his mother and relatives -- who were now sitting around his small coffin -- from a village in the Kachin State town of Nam Seng Yan near the Chinese border. They left home after hearing that columns of Burmese troops were passing through the village to fight the KIA, which has been engaged in ongoing battles with the Burmese army since a 17-year-old ceasefire collapsed in the midst of deadly clashes three weeks ago.
"His father is left behind to take care of the rice paddies," said Nam Taung, the boy's mother, who struggled to speak in Burmese and then sat silently, gazing into the distance.
Many of the war refugees are women and children who came from villages near Laiza; most of them are ethnic Kachin. Several women said that their husbands, who asked them to leave with the children when fighting broke out, stayed behind to take care of the crops.
"I fled because I previously heard stories about the torture and rape of women by the Burmese army," said Lu Nam, 30, from the village of Madi Yan near the Chinese border. She fled with two of her children and is now living at a market being used as a temporary refugee camp in Laiza. Her husband is at a frontier post fighting for the KIA.
Although the KIA is providing food and medicine daily, many children in the refugee camps are clearly suffering from malnutrition. "Many of the refugees have nothing to live on and we don't know how long they can sustain their lives," said La Rip, who works for the Kachin Development Group, which is assisting the refugees. "I don't know what will happen to them if the KIA reaches the point of being unable to provide further help."
The refugees are receiving virtually no outside help other than from Health Unlimited, a UK-backed NGO based in China, because the conflict zone is located in a high mountainous area that is difficult to reach, and there are a limited number of international NGOs active at the China-Burma border in this area.
Some refugees at first crossed over to the Chinese side of the border, but were later forced to return to Burma. Some of the refugees who were forced back to Laiza were told by the Chinese authorities that they could only return to China when war broke out. "I think China's position could be in conflict with international refugee laws," said La Rip.
The Burmese army and KIA officials held ceasefire talks near Laiza on Thursday, but the discussion did not produce any concrete results and the threat of a major war breaking out has made the refugees afraid to go back home. "I don't know when we can go back to our village," said a middle-aged man who was formerly a KIA soldier and is now a refugee. "I think it only depends on the Burmese government."
Burmese government blocks aid to Kachin war refugees
Mizzima, July 11, 2011
The Burmese government has told domestic NGOs not to give aid to Kachin war refugees who fled to KIO areas along the Sino-Burma border after the outbreak of war, according to a Kachin refugee relief committee official.
Mai Ja said that during the heavy fighting between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and government troops in mid-June, the KIO requested NGOs to give assistance to refugees and the NGOs responded positively. But the NGO relief supplies have been blocked by the government, she told Mizzima.
"One NGO told to me that the government told them not to give relief assistance to the Kachin refugees," she said. "The government threatened that they would withdraw their registration unless they followed the order. No NGO is allowed to give relief assistance to us." "They had a plan to help us but they cancelled the plan when the government put pressure on them," she said.
Mai Ja said NGOs first agreed to give cash assistance when the war broke out on June 15. She said the government has told at least three NGOs not to communicate with the KIO.
A source close to one NGO said the government told NGOs about three weeks ago to sign a pledge not to provide assistance to the war refugees.
The KIO said that the number of war refugees in Laiza, the KIO headquarters has reached about 17,000. No NGO has provided any assistance to the refugees, said relief committee head Dwe Pi Sar.
"They gave a verbal order to NGOs in Myitkyina not to provide assistance to refugees. Not only NGOs, they also ordered the religious leaders not to help us. I believe blocking of assistance to the people is a violation of human rights," he said.
Many NGOs including AZG, World Concern, WHO, Nyein Foundation, Shalom Foundation and Mitta Foundation operate in Myitkyina.
Mai Ja said, "We are not the armed group. We are the cannon fodder between these two armed groups, the KIO and government troops. The war refugees had to flee from the war zone when the war broke out. We are not opposing the government. Blocking relief supplies to the refugees means starving them to death. This government has no sympathy and no humanitarian consideration at all," she told Mizzima.
Many refugees are still afraid to return to their homes because they fear the fighting will resume, in spite of on-going cease-fire negotiations.
Children become latest victims of conflict in Kachin State
Democratic Voice of Burma, July 13, 2011
An outbreak of diarrhoea in makeshift refugee camps in northeast Burma set up by Kachin Independence Organisation is affecting hundreds of children taking shelter there and resulted in two recent deaths, according to the KIO.
La Nan, spokesperson of the KIO told DVB three children have died so far in the camps set up in KIO headquarter town of Laiza near China's Yunnan Province.
"Two children; aged 2 and 5, died in one day with diarrhea –- so there are three deaths including the death of another child who was suffering from pneumonia (earlier)," said La Nan.
He said there are about 300 child patients seeking medical assistance everyday at local hospital suffering from illnesses related to lack of clean drinking water and inadequate sanitation. "Children are mainly suffering from illnesses such as dengue fever and diarrhoea and this may lead to long-term health problems," he said.
Some 20,000 refugees, who fled armed clashes between Burmese troops and KIO's armed-wing, Kachin Independence Army that started last month, are sharing accommodation in large halls which makes it easier for the diseases to spread.
La Nan added the refugees are not getting any kind of assistance from aid groups, apart from one Non-Government Organisation in China providing blankets and mosquito nets when the refugees started to arrive in Laiza last month.
Beijing is yet to give the refugees official recognition. A statement released by Kachin Women's Association-Thailand (KWAT) in June said China has restricted the movement of aid workers along the shared border with Burma.
Reports have also circulated that officials in Yunnan Province warned local households, some of whom are of Kachin ethnicity, along the border not to shelter refugees.
KIO Reject Govt Ceasefire Plan as 'Insincere'
The Irrawaddy, June 17, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
Representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) held talks in Laiza on Friday with a government delegation, but rejected Naypyidaw's plan for a ceasefire agreement, said La Nan, the Kachin rebels' joint-secretary.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday following the negotiations, La Nan said that former Minister of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs Thein Zaw flew from Naypyidaw to Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, on Wednesday and held talks two days ago and held a meeting with members of the "Kachin Consultative Committee," which is a steering committee of ethnic Kachins with loyalties to the former military junta. After Wednesday's meeting, La Nan said, Thein Zaw sent four delegates led by Sin Wa to Laiza, the headquarters of the KIO, for ceasefire negotiations.
La Nan said that the delegates told the KIA that Naypyidaw wanted to call a ceasefire and end hostilities against the KIO's military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). They also said the government had ordered its front-line troops to stop firing on Kachin rebels two days ago.
However, according to La Nan, the KIO leaders refused to agree to the ceasefire after the delegates failed to produce any form of documentation, such as a letter from Naypyidaw, to confirm the government's intentions. "We asked them for documents or letters with the signatures of officials in Naypyidaw. But, they had none," said the KIO joint-secretary. "We told them that we would only consider a ceasefire if they could produce evidence of their sincerity."
Despite the government delegation's claims, sources in Kachin State have told The Irrawaddy that intense clashes and exchanges of gunfire have been ongoing between government forces and the KIA. On Friday, fighting broke out in Mohnyin Township, according to KIA sources who said that the KIA's Battalion 5 engaged government forces, killing five soldiers and wounding two. They did not report any casualties on the KIA side. Hostilities were also reported in Tanai (also known as Danai) in northwestern Kachin State on Thursday night.
The Burmese authorities have deployed tight security at government offices in Myitkyina while passengers travelling on the Myitkyina-Bhamo road were strictly questioned and thoroughly searched at government checkpoints, local sources said.
Local government officials in the state capital summoned members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and told them to be on standby for army recruitment if the conflict escalates, Kachin sources said.
Meanwhile, local residents have reported that government troops have used villagers as human shields on maneuvers in Namh Kam Township in northern Shan State.
Government troops sealed two villages (Nam Lim Pa in Min Khawng Township and Tung Hung in Taw Htum Yang Township) and banned the villagers from leaving. According to Seng Aung, a KIA source in Laiza, near the China-Burma border, the government forces are employing this tactic as they intend to systematically use the villagers as human shields. Residents of the two villages have dug tunnels and bunkers as hiding places in case major hostilities break out, he added.
Seng Aung told The Irrawaddy that some villagers who fled to Laiza said that others who tried to flee were prevented from doing so by government soldiers. Some made it by road to Laiza after lying to soldiers at checkpoints, telling them that they were farmers on their way to their fields, but headed instead to the relative safety of Laiza.
On Friday, four Kachin villagers in Man Kang village in Nam Kham Township were arrested and tortured by government troops after being suspected of having KIA loyalties, said Seng Aung.
Residents of Maijayang village in Momauk Township also reported that schools, markets and NGO training centers were closed, and that the village was on high alert fearing further attacks. Some villagers had reportedly sold off their livestock cheaply and fled to the Chinese border to seek sanctuary.
"The village is very quiet. Everyone has packed a bag and are ready to flee by day or by night," said La Aung, a Maijayang resident.
The KIO claims that some 10,000 Kachins have become war refugees in the nine days since conflict broke out on June 9. Some have taken refuge emergency shelters in Laiza and other locations near the Sino-Burmese border, while others have gone to other areas to stay with relatives. Some 200 have crossed into China, the KIO says.
Burmese government offers KIA a cease-fire; fighting continues
Mizzima, June 17, 2011
Nine days after fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese government troops began, the government has said it wants to negotiate a cease-fire. Meanwhile, fighting between the two sides continues.
The message was forwarded by the Kachin Consultative Assembly. 'The message said that they had stopped fighting against us, and they wanted us to stop fighting too. And the message said they wanted to hold a dialogue', Hla Nang, a central committee member of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) told Mizzima.
On Friday afternoon, according to sources close to KIA, Battalion 5 and government troops were fighting in Mohnyin District in Kachin State. During a one-hour battle, seven government troops were killed. The KIO did not suffer any casualties, according to a KIO official. The information could not be confirmed by other sources.
The KIO said they were facing troops from the government's Infantry Battalion 142 of the Northern Command.
'In response to the offer, we replied that although they said they had stopped fighting, it was just rhetoric. We said we needed to see official documents.'
'We asked them to give us proof such as the commander in chief's order or a telegram that ordered the relevant government battalions to stop fighting. If they can give us such orders, we will think about accepting the offer', said a KIA official.
On Friday morning, Kachin Consultative Assembly chairman Sin Wa and patrons Lungjung San Mai, Labang Gam Aung and Ding Yau Zau Ing arrived in Laiza, the KIO headquarters, as delegates.
Kachin State Chief Minister Lajun Ngum Sai, various ministers, USDP General-Secretary No.1 Htay Oo, USDP General-Secretary No.2 Thein Zaw and members of the Kachin Consultative Assembly held a two-day meeting in the Kachin State Assembly's office in Myitkyina on Wednesday and Thursday and then delegates were sent to Laiza to consult with the KIA.
KIO wants proof to show Burmese troops have stopped military offensive
Mizzima, June 20, 2011
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) on Sunday sent a letter to Thein Zaw, the general secretary of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), asking for proof to show that Burmese government troops have stopped their military offensive against the KIO.
'If the government really wants permanent peace, they need to give us proof to show that they have stopped the offensive. We need official documents that ordered the relevant government military units to stop fighting', La Nang, a KIO central committee member, told Mizzima. Thein Zaw is an MP from Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.
The Kachin Consultative Assembly on Friday forwarded a government message that offered the KIO a cease-fire, but the KIO doubted the authenticity of the offer.
The KIO letter said that if the government could provide proof, the KIO would withdraw its troops from the front and try to reach an agreement.
Meanwhile, KIO troops carried out an attack on the government's Military Affairs Security office in Namsangyang village on the Myitkyina-Bhamo Road about 2 a.m. on Sunday, La Nang said.
Because of recent fighting, about 10,000 people have fled to the Sino-Burmese border town of Laiza, where the KIO headquarters are located, the KIO said.
On Sunday, a ceremony to mark Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's 66th birthday was held in Laiza. In the ceremony, former members of the All Burma Students' Democratic Front and pro-democracy activists donated 5 million kyat (about US$ 700) to war victims.
The KIO, which is fighting for racial equality and self-determination, signed a cease-fire agreement with the former junta in 1994, but after it rejected the junta's Border Guard Force plan, the cease-fire agreement was broken and fresh fighting began in early June.
NLD urges peaceful solution to conflict
The Irrawaddy, June 20, 2011
Burma's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), urges the new government to seek a peaceful political solution to the recently inflamed armed conflicts in the country's ethnic areas, according to a party statement issued on Monday.
"We [the NLD] urge the parties concerned to negotiate their differences peacefully for the unity of the country and the benefit of the people," said Ohn Kyaing, an NLD spokesman, quoting the statement.
The statement said that there had been casualties, injuries and destruction due to the armed conflicts between the government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Burma's northernmost province, Kachin State.
The NLD said that about 10,000 local residents and Chinese workers constructing a hydropower dam in the conflict area had to flee across the border into China to escape the hostilities.
The NLD issued the statement a day after the birthday of its leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who, in a short speech at the party's headquarters on Sunday, said, "If I were asked to choose the birthday present that I wanted, I would say I wanted peace in the country."
Some observers say the renewed hostilities in Kachin State after a 17-year ceasefire between the Burmese army and KIA are largely due to Naypyidaw's desire to control the area close to the China-Burma border where an important hydropower dam project is in progress.
China's energy company Datang (Yunnan) United Hydropower Developing Co (DUHD) has invested in the Taping dam project and had 215 Chinese workers stationed there until all returned to China recently due to the conflict, according to Burma's state-run New Light of Myanmar.
Asked whether the NLD will do something to help facilitate the end of the armed conflicts in the ethnic areas, Nyan Win, the party's legal expert as well as one of its spokespersons, said, "Our position is just to urge the parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution. We are in no position to carry out a plan of action to end the conflict for the time being."
Like the NLD, some members of parliament from ethnic political parties such as the Rakhine National Development Party (RNDP), the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party and the All Mon Region Democracy Party have also called for a peaceful solution to end the armed conflict in Kachin State.
Dr. Aye Maung, the chairman of the RNDP, suggested that a parliamentary committee be formed with MPs from different ethnic backgrounds taking on a negotiating role to reach peaceful agreements between the new government and the ethnic armed groups.
The 2008 constitution does not provide for a permanent standing committee on ethnic affairs or state security affairs. According to the constitution, the parliament can form committees for Defense and Security Affairs and National Races Affairs, and only if there arises a need to study and submit these affairs to the parliament.
Without an appropriate body for the discussion of ethnic affairs and border security affairs in the new parliament, members of the existing parliamentary committees who are currently discussing and reviewing existing laws are silent on the crucial issue of the armed conflicts, according to a committee member who asked to remain anonymous.
Asked about the role of parliament and the right of MPs in bringing peace to the ethnic conflict areas under the current constitution, Thein Nyunt, a MP to the Upper House, said, "In principle, we don't want a spread of the civil war in the country.
"If we could raise issues by submitting questions and proposals to the parliament, we would. But, as for the Kachin issue, the MPs in Kachin State know the situation better than their colleagues in other areas. Therefore they should initiate raising these issues."
Rangoon-based lawyer Aung Thein said that as the constitution gave the military the freedom to operate independently from parliament, current Commander-in-Chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing can exercise full authority to carry out military operations in the name of protecting the country by all means.
KIA is ready for ceasefire, if offered through proper channels
The Irrawaddy, June 23, 2011
Sai Zom Hseng
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is ready to stop fighting, but first it wants guarantees that any ceasefire proposal offered on behalf of the government will be respected by Burmese military commanders, according to officials from the group's political wing.
"We want the Burmese government or a leading member of the Burmese army to offer proof that they will stop firing. We can't just accept a short letter saying that they will stop," said La Nan, the joint-secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, La Nan said that the KIO recently received a letter from Thein Zaw, the former Minister of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs, stating that "Northern Regional Military Commander Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung has already ordered his troops to stop firing, and the KIA needs to stop firing as well."
He said that the letter was written by Thein Zaw in his capacity as an MP for Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, and therefore could not be regarded as representative of the government's position or that of the Burmese military.
La Nan noted that when the KIO agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese government in 1994, leaders of both sides were present and the agreement was signed in front of several witnesses.
"Even then, we found that the Burmese army couldn't be trusted not to attack our troops. For example, in 2001, they killed about 10 KIA Brigade 4 soldiers in northern Shan State for no reason. We don't want problems like that in the future. That's why we're asking for guarantees," he said.
La Nan said that the KIO also recently received a letter from Zeyar Aung, the Burmese army's northern regional commander, but it made no mention of a ceasefire. The letter denied that the recent fighting was part of a Burmese military operation, claiming that the conflict started because the army had to "protect a state-level project being carried out in cooperation with a neighboring country" -- referring to a hydropower dam being built on the Taping River by a Chinese company.
Clashes between the two sides erupted in the second week of June. Although there has been no major fighting in recent days, there were reports of skirmishes in Putao Township, in the far north of the state, on Wednesday, suggesting that the conflict is spreading.
Despite the relative quiet that has prevailed so far this week, the number of refugees fleeing the affected areas is still high. Many have crossed the border into China, but some have already returned to Kachin State under pressure from the Chinese authorities, according to Mai Ja of the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, one of the groups assisting the refugees.
"Some refugees who are currently in China can't get food or medicine, so they will come back to Kachin State," she said. "They are forced to stay in small rooms, and conditions aren't very sanitary, so they are having health problems."
Most of the refugees in China are staying in the villages of Phin Chan, Loi Leng, Jang Fone, Naung Ang and Naung Tao in Yunnan Province's Yingjiang Township. The refugees in Kachin State are receiving assistance from an umbrella group of seven local NGOs known as Wunpawng Ning Htoi ("Lights for the Kachin People").
Lower House speaker claims conflict in Kachin State 'has been solved'
Mizzima, June 25, 2011
Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann claimed Friday in a meeting with MPs in Rangoon Region that the armed conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese government troops in Kachin State had been solved.
However, La Nang, a spokesperson for the KIA, said on Friday that it had not received a copy of an order stating that government troops have been ordered to stop fighting, a request it raised on Monday. Until confirmation was received, fighting would continue, he said.
Speaker Thura Shwe Mann said that Thein Zaw, a Lower House MP for the Myitkyina Constituency, had brokered a cease-fire.
However, reports on Monday indicated that the KIA was not satisfied with Thein's verbal guarantee of a cease-fire. Fighting between government troops and the KIA began on June 9.
MP Phone Myint Aung, who attended the meeting, reported that the speaker said: 'The mediation of Thein Zaw led to a solution and that the relationship between the KIA and the government has returned to the original state before the fighting began. He said the conflict has ended'.
On June 19, Thein Zaw, the former minister of Communications, Post, and Telegraph Ministry, sent a letter to the KIA saying that the government had ordered its troops to stop fighting.
La Nang said, 'As of Friday, we have not received a copy of any order stating a halt to the fighting. Thein Zaw's verbal offer does not give us a guarantee for a cease-fire.'
'He can offer only a verbal promise. He is not a member of government. He is just an MP. So, we need official proof given by the government or the army. As of now we have not received any formal proof', he said.
In Friday's meeting, Thura Shwe Mann urged MPs to be dutiful like Thein Zaw.
In other business, Shwe Mann urged MPs to study Burma's laws so that they can modify the laws if necessary.
Deputy Speaker Nanda Kyaw Swar, members of the Rangoon Region government, Rangoon Mayor Hla Myint, officials from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and more than 160 MPs in Rangoon and chief editors from local journals attended the meeting.
After the meeting, Shwe Mann asked for questions, but no questions were asked. An editor said that officials who invited the journalists and MPs told them in advance not to ask questions. The meeting was held from noon to 2 p.m. in Parliament Building on Pyay Road in Rangoon.
Cease-fire talks with KIO move forward
Mizzima, June 30, 2011
After a government negotiation team and KIO officials met on Thursday, a cease-fire agreement between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) appeared to be close to being finalized.
A three-member government negotiation team led by Kachin State Border Security Affairs Minister Colonel Than Aung met with a six-member KIO team led by Vice Chief-of-Staff Brigadier General Gwam Mau at the KIO liaison office in Lajayan for about one and half hours.
"They must still produce proof for a unilateral cease-fire order. Only after receiving this proof, shall we issue a similar order to our troops on the frontline. Then we will sign a cease-fire agreement with either the military or government representatives. Today's meeting was a preliminary meeting for this agreement," KIO joint secretary La Nan told Mizzima.
"In today's meeting, we talked about resolving political issues through political means. I think this is a first step toward compromise shown by the government, unlike the previous governments," he said.
The negotiating team said today that the government ordered a cease-fire on June 18, and it agreed to reopen the KIO liaison office in Myitkyina to provide regular contact between the two sides, KIO leaders said.
War broke out on June 9 and continued until Tuesday, when fighting tapered off.
The government team included State Government Border Security Affairs and Development Minister Colonel Than Aung; Kachin National Consultative Council Chairman Sin Wa Nau; Unity and Democracy Party Kachin State (UDPKS) member and Upper House MP Khet Htein Nan. General Staff Officer Grade (1) Colonel Tun Tun Ohn and Major Naing Lin of Military Affairs Security did not attend the meeting.
Government team leader Colonel Than Aung is an ethnic Rakhine, who has a good reputation among Kachin. He was Strategic Command Commander in Phakant in 2008-09 and previously strategic command commander in the Northern Command. He contested in the 2010 general election and was appointed the Border Security Affairs Minister of Kachin State after winning in the election.
The government team was picked up by KIO security forces at a creek between Shwe Nyaung Pin and Garayan villages, about halfway from Myitkyina. About 10 soldiers from the government security forces were left at Lajayan camp.
"They seem to trust us when our security forces picked up their delegation. We believe they want to achieve a successful negotiation," La Nan said.
Regarding a possible ceasefire agreement, La Nan said, "It wholly depends on the situation. If a nationwide dialogue is put on the table, then a nationwide cease-fire might be achieved and political stability could be restored."
Kachin chief minister organizes a group to broker cease-fire
Mizzima, June 30, 2011
Kachin State Chief Minister Lajun Ngum Sai has organized a "peace making and negotiation group" to broker a cease-fire between the Kachin Independence Army and the government.
The group, organized on Monday, includes Sin Wa Naw, the chairman of Kachin National Consultative Assembly; Khak Htein Nang, an Upper House MP of the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State; and three Burmese officers, Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Than Aung, Colonel Tun Tun Ohn of the Northern Command and Major Naing Lin of the Military Investigation Department.
Sin Wa Naw said the government officers and KIO representatives will meet on Thursday at Laja Yang, located on the Myitkyina-Laiza Road. "The first step is to end the fighting. Then, we will try to organize a political dialogue," Sin Wa Naw told Mizzima. Sin Wa Naw said that he would give the KIO a letter from the government indicating that it will not fire on the KIO unless it is fired upon.
He added, "If both sides engage in a lively give-and-take, the meeting will be successful; otherwise, fruitless. Give-and-take means the government needs to consider accepting suggestions made by the KIO and reciprocally, the KIO needs to consider the government's offer."
KIO joint secretary La Nang said the KIO would make a decision based on the discussions within the negotiating group. "If they ask us to attend the meeting, we will. We will listen to what they say and analyze their objectives. Then will make a decision," La Nang said.
On June 17, four representatives from the Kachin Consultative Assembly forwarded a letter to the KIO from Lower House MP Thein Zaw, member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, offering the KIO a cease-fire.The KIO doubted the authenticity of the offer because it did not include any official documents. On June 19, the KIO sent a letter to Thein Zaw asking for proof to show that government troops have been ordered to stop the military offensive against the KIO.
Ceasefire Talks Produce Old Rhetoric, No New Agreement
The Irrawaddy, July 1, 2011
At 9:30 a.m. On Thursday, the deputy military chief of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Brig-Gen Gun Maw, and a group of other high-ranking KIA officials gathered by the roadside in Laja Yan Village, Kachin State. The village is located in an area the ethnic armed group currently controls, but sits only a few kilometers from a deployment of Burmese army troops, with whom the KIA has been engaged in deadly fighting for the last three weeks since a 17-year long ceasefire broke down.
Dressed in light green camouflage fatigues, the soft-spoken Gun Maw and his comrades chatted in the Kachin language, occasionally breaking into laughter. Behind them was a makeshift pavilion, constructed to hold the first direct talks between representatives of the Burmese military and the KIA since clashes broke out between the two sides on June 9. Nearby were plastic bags containing Johnny Walker whiskey: gifts for the Burmese delegation.
At 11:00 a.m., Col Than Aung, the Kachin State minister for border affairs, arrived at the pavilion with his entourage. He indicated from the start of the meeting that he was directly representing the national government in Naypyidaw, not just the Kachin State government, by saying that, "Higher authorities and I talked over this conflict. You understand who I am referring to, don't you?"
In what seemed to be an overture, he said that the KIA's liaison offices should be reopened so the KIA and the Burmese government could work together -- the KIA set up the offices in Kachin State's urban areas after the 1994 ceasefire was signed, but the Burmese government forced them to close late last year after the ethnic armed group rejected Naypyidaw's order to transform itself into a member of the government's border guard force (BGF) under the command of the Burmese army.
Than Aung also asked Gun Maw for a signed acknowledgement that the KIA would renew the ceasefire, and asked the KIA officials to participate in the country's political process "in dignity."
These requests came despite the fact that Than Aung did not himself carry any official document saying that the government would renew the ceasefire, and the fact that the Burmese military regime which in March was replaced by a nominally civilian government forbid three Kachin political parties from participating in the parliamentary elections last November on grounds that their leaders were linked to the KIA.
When Gun Maw asked Than Aung for formal evidence that the Burmese army would end hostile attacks against the KIA, Than Aung did not answer directly, saying he will have to report to the higher authorities.
"We heard that the Burmese army was reinforcing its troops in Kachin State, some of which have arrived by ship," Gun Maw said.
"No, that's not true," Than Aung replied. "All are at normal levels. This is the media age. We cannot hide anything."
Although Gun Maw and the other KIA officials at the meeting expressed a desire for a ceasefire, they indicated that any agreement to halt fighting must come with tangible political reforms and compromise from the Naypyidaw government. In particular, he told the Burmese delegation that the government must change the "Nargis Law," referring to the current Constitution, which was voted on in a referendum held in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
"A ceasefire does not necessarily mean peace," Gun Maw said. "Many describe the previous ceasefire as peace, which it really wasn't."
During the previous ceasefire, the KIA and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), asked the Burmese regime to engage in regional development and provide a political solution to the decades old conflict which granted autonomy to the Kachin people in Kachin State. At that time, the Burmese military generals said they did not have the mandate to solve the political questions, which could only be addressed after a civilian government came into power.
Between the time the 1994 ceasefire was entered into and 2009, when the KIA first rejected the BGF plan, Chinese companies and Burmese business groups with links to the government invested in a number of large projects in Kachin State, such as hydropower projects, that benefitted the outside investors but not local people and came with significant negative social and environmental impacts.
In addition, during that time the KIA focused its efforts on regional development and stopped actively recruiting and training new forces for its armed militia, which weakened its position in relation to the Burmese government. So when the KIA complained to the Burmese government about the unfairness and negative effects of projects such as the Chinese-built Myitsone Dam, it lacked the negotiating leverage either to halt the project or change the terms.
It is therefore not surprising that in interviews with The Irrawaddy at the KIA headquarters in Laiza and at nearby military outposts, several KIA officers and lower ranking soldiers said they did not want to see their leaders striking another "empty" ceasefire deal with the Burmese government, preferring to fight the Burmese army for the autonomy they desired.
"We want autonomy for Kachin State. Otherwise, I don't want another ceasefire with the Burmese army," said 60-year-old Maj. Hkaraw La Ja, the commander of the KIA's 1,000-strong guerilla force tasked with defending the KIA Headquarters in Laiza, which is located near the Chinese border. Hkaraw La Ja previously fought the Burmese army from 1967 until 1997, and then went into retirement. Now, he is one of several combat-hardened military officers who re-joined the KIA in late 2009 after tension built up with the Burmese military leaders over the BGF plan. "I'm ready to fight for my people," he said, and his foot soldiers appear ready to follow.
"I joined the army to fight for national independence," said Brang Seng, 21, a KIA soldier guarding a security post at Laja Yan, who noted that the Kachin people have been colonized by the Burmese majority since the British left Burma 63 years ago.
Within the KIA, there is not much optimism that a new ceasefire deal will be reached, and many members expressed a complete distrust of the Burmese government. The headmaster of the KIA's military academy at Laiza, who does not wish to be named, explained that the Kachin people have faced injustice even with an armed KIA. "These injustices will become all the more severe when we lay down our arms," he said. "Instead of another sham ceasefire, we will fight to our death."
Some officials assume that the current lull in armed clashes with the Burmese troops is either because of an internal clash in the Naypyidaw leadership, or because the Burmese government is just waiting for a proper time to launch a major military offensive against them.
Despite the skepticism, however, Burmese and KIA officials intend to meet again in the near future for another round of ceasefire talks, although when is unclear. "I don't know when this will happen again. They said they will inform us," said Gun Maw after the meeting.
KIA to Halt Attacks Pending Ceasefire
The Irrawaddy, July 5, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
Pending the successful negotiation of a formal ceasefire agreement, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has ordered its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), to halt all attacks against Burmese army bases, government buildings and transportation bridges in Kachin State, according to a KIO spokesperson.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy, the KIO's Joint-secretary La Nan said, "Three days ago, we ordered our troops at the frontline not to further attack government offices or plant explosive devices on routes and bridges.
"However, it is not a total ceasefire," he said.
La Nan said that the KIO has asked its troops not to launch military operations against the Burmese government forces' military bases and strongholds, but added that the KIA will maintain guerrilla warfare against the Burmese army if it is deemed necessary or if the government troops preemptively launch an attack against the KIA.
The move came as the government offered a verbal ceasefire to the KIO leadership. Some observers said that the KIO leaders want their troops to halt all military action while they negotiate the terms offered by the government.
A KIA source in Laiza, the headquarters of the KIA, said that the KIO leaders truly wanted a ceasefire with the government, but insisted the terms be made official.
However, local sources said that tension remains high between the government troops and the KIA forces.
Since fighting broke out between the two sides last month, the KIA has frequently targeted routes and bridges used by the Burmese army to transport supplies.
Meanwhile, war refugees from Kachin villages who fled their homes to Laiza to escape the hostilities have mostly decided to stay in the town fearing that the ceasefire is fragile and that fighting could recur at any time. More than 10,000 Kachin refugees are currently in Laiza or in camps along the Sino-Burmese border.
With an estimated 10,000 fighters, the KIA is the second largest ethnic armed group in Burma. It signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1994; however, the truce was broken in June and serious clashes have occurred on a near daily basis since.
Army Negotiator Pushes for Ceasefire, as State Media Blames KIA for Blasts
The Irrawaddy, July 7, 2011
As Burma's military continues its calls on the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to agree to a ceasefire after nearly a month of hostilities, the country's state-run media has accused the group of carrying out a series of bombings targeting roads and bridges in Kachin State.
According to intelligence sources, Col Than Aung, the Burmese army's chief negotiator in the conflict, sent a letter to his Kachin counterpart, KIA vice chief of staff Brig-Gen Gun Maw, earlier this week urging the group to stop its warfare in the state. "We will continue to discuss this matter until we achieve peace," Than Aung was quoted by sources as saying in the letter.
The letter also said that both sides should refrain from carrying out attacks, including bombings, and that the KIA should release government soldiers it is holding prisoner and avoid taking up position in government buildings.
In reply, the KIA said that it appreciated the government negotiator's concerns and agreed to repair a bridge that had been damaged by a recent explosion.
Meanwhile, Burma's state-run newspapers on Thursday accused the KIA of carrying out three bombings between June 30 and July 5 that targeted roads, railways and bridges in Kachin State. "KIA is committing mine explosions on motor roads, railroads and bridges for killing and wounding the people in Kachin State," The New Light of Myanmar said.
The KIA has denied that Kachin troops are targeting civilians, but has vowed to defend their "land and Kachin people" from any attack by the government army.
A 16-year-old ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down on June 9 after Burmese troops attacked the KIA near the Chinese-run hydropower station of Ta Paing, forcing about 200 Chinese technicians and workers at the site to return to China.
Public tells KIO what it thinks about cease-fire
Mizzima, July 12, 2011
What do you think? Fight? Negotiate? Peace? A public forum on negotiations for a cease-fire between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) took place at the KIO headquarters in Laiza on Tuesday.
KIO chairman Zawng Hra and other top leaders attended the forum. On Tuesday morning, Major General Gunhtang Gam Shawng, the KIO chief of staff, outlined the views of the Burmese government and the recent warfare; in the afternoon, the public expressed their views and opinions.
"Our main objective is to make the people understand about the fighting. Then we listened to their opinions. We will take into account their opinions in carrying out our job," said Major General Gunhtang Gam Shawng.
A wide range of people, totaling around 130, including representatives from Rangoon Region, Mandalay Region, Mohnyin, Mokaung, Myitkyina, Bhamo in Kachin State, and Muse, Lashio, Kutkhaing, Namphat in Shan State, leaders from Myitkyina Christian Council, members from Kachin Consultative Council and representatives from Yunnan Province in China attended the forum, which will continue on Wednesday.
KIO joint secretary and central committee member La Nang told Mizzima that the KIO would carry out its task in accordance with whatever resolution is approved by the forum.
"Some Kachin people want to fight against the government troops. Some want to achieve peace by negotiating a cease-fire. Most of them want to fight," said La Nang. "The Kachin people rely on the KIO. Some people whom we did not invite attended the forum too. We found that most people don't like the government."
The fighting between KIO and Burmese government troops started June 9 near the Taping hydropower project area in Kachin State.
In a similiar meeting on September 2, 2009, the KIO asked the public for its views on the former junta's Border Guard Force (BGF) plan. At that time, the KIO decided to reject the BGF plan to avoid the junta's influence.
The KIO was formed in 1961 to fight for racial equality and self-determination. It signed a cease-fire agreement with the former junta in 1994, but after it rejected the junta's BGF plan, tension increased between the KIO and the government. Recently, the state-run newspapers have labeled theKIOan "insurgentgroup."
Burmese government wants to limit cease-fire negotiates to KIO
Mizzima News, July 26, 2011
The KIO, a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an ethnic group alliance, has offered to stop fighting if the government will start negotiations for a nationwide cease-fire, but Burmese authorities said no deal in a recent e-mail, according to La Nang, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
"They said that they would negotiate cease-fire in Kachin State first. Then in accordance with the example of Kachin State, they would try to achieve a cease-fire in other states," La Nang said.
The UNFC comprises the Karen National Union, New Mon State Party, Chin National Front, Kachin Independence Organization and Karenni National Progressive Party.
According to sources close to Naypyitaw, there have been no discussions about the recent clashes in Kachin, Karen and Shan states.
Meanwhile, rumours are circulating that MP Hkyet Hting Nan of the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State (UDPKS) and MP Hka Mai Tang of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party are talking to leaders from the Kachin Culture Group in Kachin State to work as mediators to negotiate a cease-fire with the KIO. However, MP Hkyet Hting Nan denied the rumour.
"It's not true. But, I met with Hka Mai Tang recently three or four times. But we met just to exchange presents," Hkyet Hting Nan said. He said he visited war refugees in Waimaw Township on Tuesday and donated food.
He said that the UDPKS party has donated rice, cooking oil, salt, mosquito nets and stationery to refugees with a total value of 2.5 million kyat (about US$ 3,000).
A Top Govt. Official Downplays Peace Proposal
The Irrawaddy, July 27, 2011
Burma's Election Commission Chairman ex-Lt-Gen Tin Aye downplayed ethnic minority parties' calls for "peace talks" over ongoing conflicts during a meeting in Naypyidaw on Wednesday.
According to leaders of ethnic parties who attended the meeting, Tin Aye was asked about the possibility of peace talks to stop fighting between government troops and ethnic armed groups in Kachin and Shan states. However, the leading government official apparently replied "no," saying that the Election Commission did not have any authority on the issue.
"The Shan Party [Shan Nationalities Development Party] and other ethnic parties representing Chin, Karen and Inn people proposed a serious discussion on 'peace.' And then other ethnic parties plus pro-democracy representatives at the meeting supported the proposal for peace talks," said Aye Maung, chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party.
"Then U Tin Aye replied that the issue has to be discussed at the Hluttaw [Parliament]," said Aye Maung. "U Tin Aye said he also wants peace," he added.
The meeting's main agenda was regarding by-elections for more than 40 constituencies which are expected to be held late this year. The Election Commission called 37 political parties to the meeting in Naypyidaw.
In past three months of President Thein Sein's new administration, fresh armed conflicts have occurred in Kachin and Shan states where there were previously ceasefire agreements for 16 and 22 years respectively.
While the Burmese Army's presence have been increased in conflict zones, both the government and the ethnic armed groups of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Shan State Army (SSA) have discussed ceasefire talks.
However, negotiations have not been successful. Ethnic groups complained that the government only sent low profile negotiators for the discussions saying that they could not guarantee "genuine ceasefire agreements and peace" in the union.
La Nan, joint-secretary of the KIA's political wing the Karen Independence Organisation, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the government's negotiator, Col Than Aung -- Kachin State's minister for security and border affairs -- contacted him frequently over the weekend regarding a ceasefire agreement.
"The government last called about a ceasefire on Sunday. But they have to offer more guarantees for a long-term ceasefire for peace and stability in the state," he said. "Our troops report that the government's militarization has not been decreased."
He added that, whether it is connected or not, Naypyidaw's fresh calls for a ceasefire and Minister Aung Kyi's talk with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi came shortly after the Asean Regional Forum in Bali, Indonesia.
Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin faced pressure from the US and Asean members for "concrete, measurable progress" regarding political reforms such as release of more than 2,000 political prisoners and "meaningful and inclusive dialogue" with the opposition and ethnic groups.
Meanwhile, two secretaries of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party -- former ministers Aung Thaung and Thein Zaw—are scheduled to visit Kachin State capital Myitkyina again in coming days. They are expected to hold another round-up meeting on the conflict with respected Kachin representatives in the town.
Suu Kyi's 'Open Letter' calls for immediate cease-fire in ethnic areas
Mizzima, July 28, 2011
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday made her first open entreaty, urging Burmese government troops and ethnic armed groups to stop fighting as soon as possible and to solve problems by using peaceful ways.
The open letter, signed by Suu Kyi and addressed to President Thein Sein, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Karen National Union (KNU), the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Shan State Army (SSA), said, "With the sole purpose of promoting the well-being of all nationalities in the land, I call for immediate cease-fires and the peaceful resolution of the conflicts.
"These conflicts are resulting in tragic outcomes such as loss of life, destruction of costly physical infrastructures and economic projects and a condition of general deterioration.Besides causing enormous suffering among local communities, these conflicts come with a potential risk of spilling over and spreading across Burma's immediate neighbourhoods," the statement continued.
"The (post-independence) Union of Burma was co-founded by different nationalities.Like siblings from a single family, all these nationalities had cohabited this land since time immemorial. Therefore, forging peaceful ties and unity among the nationalities is of paramount importance."
A day after the general elections in November 2010, fighting began in Karen State followed by fighting in Kachin, Shan and Mon states. Among the issues was an order by the former junta forcing ethnic cease-fire groups to transform their armies into a Union Border Guard Force under the control of the central government. Most ethnic groups opposed the order.
Meanwhile, the Naypyitaw government has pursued a policy that calls for the country to have only one army. So far, senior government officials in Naypyitaw have not publicly discussed the recent fighting in ethnic areas, according to sources close to officials. Political parties have had little success in trying to discuss the issue in Parliament. Some political parties, such as Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, have repeatedly called for dialogue and national reconciliation.
In her letter, Suu Kyi said, "On my part I am prepared, and pledge, to do everything in my power towards the cessation of armed conflicts and building peace in the Union."
Win Tin, a NLD central executive committee member, said, "Now, the country is in the horrors of a civil war. Discussions and negotiations with regard to these affairs are always essential."
Major Sai Lao Hseng of the Shan State Army (SSA) said, "On behalf of all ethnic people, if Aung San Suu Kyi calls for a nationwide cease-fire from the government and mediates, we will welcome it. We hope for that too."
Fighting has continued in Shan and Kachin states until Tuesday. Many schools have been closed. Earlier, the SSA said Burmese government military aircraft dropped bombs on its troops. The reports could not be confirmed by outside sources.
Despite negotiations to reach a cease-fire agreement between the KIO and the Burmese government, often via mail or e-mail, there has been no significant let up in the fighting. More than 16,000 war refugees are in need of aid and medicine, according to a KIO health department official.
Similarly, in Karen State, continuing clashes have taken place until this week, with both sides firing heavy artillery. Government troops ordered villagers in Myawaddy Township not to go outside the village after it learned that DKBA Major General Bo Moustache's troops were active near Myawaddy.
The All Mon Region Democracy Party chairman, Nai Ngwe Thein, said, "We want peace via any means. We don't want fighting against each other…"
On Thursday, in a meeting between the Union Election Commission and 37 political parties, the Mon, Arakanese, Phalon-Sawaw, Shan and Chin ethnic parties all urged the authorities to set up a peace-making commission. In response to their call, the EU commission chairman Tin Aye said the parties should introduce the issue in Parliament.
Saw Bi Kyin Oo, the secretary of the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, said, "Peace has not been established in Karen State. Fighting has broken out frequently. People cannot live peacefully. The fighting enters the villages. Under the circumstances, the most important thing we need is peace."
SSA North not left out in the cold: Spokesman
Shan Herald Agency for News, July 28, 2011
The expected signing of a ceasefire agreement between its ally Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) government does not necessarily mean the Shan State Progress Party / Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), better known as the SSA North, will be left alone to fight the Burma Army, according to the movement's spokesman Maj Sai La.
"Sao Yawdserk (SSA "South") and the Karen National Union (KNU) have been fighting for a long time and I haven't heard they are about to give up anytime soon," he told SHAN.
The SSPP/SSA and the KIO / KIA are two of the 12 members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) set up in February to seek a political resolution and to form a federal army. The KIO currently holds the chair.
"I also believe the KIO, as the leader of the UNFC, will not be out to save its own skin," he explained, spurning comments that the SSA, outmanned and outgunned, will be left alone to face the music.
The Kachin News Group reported yesterday that the KIO and Naypyitaw, represented by its Kachin State Government, was on the verge of signing a ceasefire agreement. The signing however has been delayed because signatories designated by Naypyitaw were "not acceptable" to the KIO.
"The KIO's other condition is that a political dialogue follows the ceasefire," KNG editor Naw Din explained. "And it wants the UNFC to negotiate not only in the interests of Kachins but all the ethnic nationalities."
The UNFC's Vice President Abel Tweed yesterday exhorted its other principal members Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Chin National Front (CNF) to wage a united war against "Thein Sein government's army."
The attacking Burma Army had also sent two Shan monks to discuss "peace" with the SSA North at its headquarters Wanhai last Monday, 25 July. The meeting ended without reaching any agreement. "The Burma Army doesn't want to suspend the hostilities," Sai La charged. "The offer was only a ruse. It probably is having an internal problem. In any case, the preparations for the final assault (on Wanhai) apparently are not complete yet."
He compares Wanhai to a hive of bees or hornets. "We want the Burma Army to know that if the hive is destroyed, the bees and the hornets will run amok all over the place and may sting anyone," he cautioned. "It may not be located on the border like Laiza and may be easier to occupy, but it is still a hive of bees and hornets."
Two clashes were reported between the two sides, one in Hsipaw's Mongla and another in Kung Zarm, Monghsu yesterday. Villagers also reported the bridge over the Nammai, 6 miles north of Monghsu, was demolished by an unknown armed group, probably the SSA North.
Gov't sends KIO cease-fire agreement; KIO calls for nationwide cease-fire
Mizzima, July 29, 2011
In reply to a point-by-point cease-fire proposal sent to the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) on Wednesday, the KIO has demanded a national wide cease-fire within 15 days.
In its reply to the cease-fire offer from the government, KIO spokesman La Nan said that the government must stop all offensives in Kachin and Shan states within 48 hours after signing the cease-fire agreement and it must announce a cease-fire across the country and implement a political dialogue within 15 days. The KIO sent its reply to Border Affairs minister and negotiation team member Than Aung by e-mail.
"We shall sign only if the agreement has concrete facts and conditions," said KIO joint secretary and spokesman La Nan.
Meanwhile, the KIO welcomed an open letter sent by Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday calling for a nationwide cease-fire and negotiations.
In its reply letter, the KIO demanded that the government prepare a cease-fire agreement to be signed by both sides in Burmese and English. It also asked for clarification of President Thein Sein's views on the 1947 Panglong Agreement that called for equality and autonomy for ethnic groups.
Government representative Sim Wah Nau acknowledged the receipt of the KIO reply letter.
He told Mizzima: "We changed the points mentioned in their reply. We told them we also wanted to draft the agreement in English and that obligations on the Panglong Agreement could be deliberated later."
He said that the government will arrange a signing ceremony to be held at a place designated by the KIO and the ceremony will be attended by government representatives, Kachin Christian church leaders, local elders and Kachin cultural and literary organization members totaling about 60 people. Kachin State government Chief Minister Lajun Ngam Sai said he would invite state-run media and private domestic media to the signing ceremony.
According to Kachin political sources, MP Thein Zaw, a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said he would hold an anti-war rally if the KIO did not sign the cease-fire agreement. Sim Wah Nau warned the KIO that there would be unrest if it refused to sign.
"We will hold a mass rally if the KIO refuses to sign the agreement, and the people will blame the KIO. We are waiting only for a KIO nod to sign this agreement. There will be growing unrest by the people if they refuse to sign," Sim Wah Nau said.
The government-backed USDP has orchestrated similar anti-KIO mass rallies in the past. Local people were made to attend the rallies at the behest of the authorities.
New-generation war in Myanmar
Asia Times, August 3, 2011
August 3, 2011
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