Burma: Government makes peace with Karen rebels — but why not Kachin?By Zin Linn Apr 08, 2012 8:39PM UTC
On April 6, a Burmese government peace-making team headed by Railways Minister Aung Min and the Karen National Union’s peace delegation led by Secretary Zipporah Sein held talks in Rangoon.
The two sides agreed to work step-by-step for a nationwide cease-fire and to end conflict in ethnic areas. Both sides also agreed to undertake people’s safety including resettlement of thousands of refugees displaced by armed conflicts in the Karen state, and also to cooperate on removal of landmines.
President Thein Sein also met six delegates from the Karen National Union (KNU) on April 7 in Naypyidaw, according to a government official who asked not to be named, following negotiations with ministers in Rangoon on Friday, AFP News said.
On the contrary, government has delayed to settle down the conflicts in Kachin state. The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has offered to end ongoing warfare if the government will commence talks for a nationwide ceasefire. But Burmese government authorities did not show any positive signal.
Instead, recently in April, the Burmese Army was preparing to launch a major offensive against Kachin’s administrative capital Laiza, the Kachinland News reported. Fierce fighting between the KIA’s 19th Battalion of 5th Brigade and Burmese soldiers broke out on April 6 as the Burmese Army has substantially increased its attacks directed at the headquarters of the KIO’s Administrative Headquarter.
A 17-year-old armistice between the Burmese Government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Burma’s second largest rebel groups, collapsed on June 9, 2011, sending more than 50,000 Kachin war-refugees fleeing across the Sino-Burma border into makeshift shelters on the Chinese side.
According to local witnesses, the Burmese army has suffered serious fatalities since the Kachin resistance troops used surprise ambush attacks. As said by the KIO, intercepts of the Burmese army’s radio messages revealed a shocking number of lethally wounded soldiers on the side of the government armed forces, Kachin News Group said.
Kachin State in Northern Burma is extremely vital to China and unruly armed clashes between the Burmese Army and the KIO could have an impact on its business enterprises exploiting the region as a channel for twin-gas-energy-pipeline to its southwestern province of Yunnan.
Building of a twin oil and gas pipeline from Kyauk-pru in southeastern Arakan State of Burma, across middle-Burma and Kachin State, to China’s Yunnan province is going ahead. In addition, the Kachin State is home to many hydropower projects including Myitsone dam designed to provide electricity to China.
The project is headed by a Chinese state-owned firm China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in partnership with Burma’s state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). After the billion-dollar twin pipeline project is completed, it will send oil and gas energy from Burma’s Kyaukpru deep-seaport in Arakan State to China’s Yunnan province.
According to KNG, the KIA’s Eighth Battalion has controlled a long stretch of northern Shan State slated to be the route of the Shwe-gas pipeline project. Currently the Eighth Battalion is under attack at key points along the pipeline route. This includes Namtu, Mandong, Nam Kham and KIA positions near Muse close to the Chinese border.
Armed clashes between the Burma Army and the armed wing of Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) resumed in northern Burma in March after both sides failed to reach an agreement during the latest round of peace talks, which were held March 8-10 in China.
The state-owned newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, said on March 11 that a Union level peace-making group and a central delegation of the Kachin Independence Organization held peace talks for the third time at Jingcheng Hotel in Shweli in the People’s Republic of China from March 8 to 11.
The two sides announced a joint statement after talks. The joint statement said that the two sides have satisfied the peace talks between the Union level peace-making group of the government and KIO’s central delegation.
The statement said the peace talks had seen progress and the two sides could build trust during the meetings. The peace talks will continue through political means. It also mentioned that military tensions would decrease as a result of the peace talks.
The two sides will continue to discuss the issues related to the outposts in conflict areas until achieving an agreement, as mentioned in the joint-statement.
But, the primary agreements of Ruili’s meetings publicized on March 11 was that both sides agreed they were neglected by the government army. The latest fighting in northern Shan state came less than 24 hours after a joint statement issued on March 11 by delegates from both the KIO and the Burmese government.
The joint-statement said: “The two sides believe that military tensions would be decreased as a result of the peace talks.”
Meanwhile, approximately 1,000 government soldiers from Tactical Operations Command 1 and 2 plus infamous 88th LID took a stronghold in Gang-Dau-Yang and Daw-Hpum-Yang in preparation for a major assault on Kachin headquarters.
Local sources reported that 13 Burmese Army trucks transported heavy artillery including 105 mm, 120 mm howitzers and field guns to Gang Dau Yang since last Wednesday. Skirmishes occur daily near Npawn village and Ja Hta village as Burmese Army continues its offensive to get a stronghold in areas around Gang-Dau-Yang.
“Latest troops movements and transportation of military equipment all indicated that Burmese Army is preparing for a major assault,” the Kachinland News said, quoting a local observer. Local sources also say that Burmese Army’s Bureau of Air Defence got 3 fighter jets ready at Nampong Air Force Base in Myitkyina for an upcoming assault on KIA.
KIO has constantly asked the government to withdraw its troops toward the line agreed upon in the 1994 ceasefire accord to show its peace proposal is sincere and genuine. The most recent battles took place in the KIO’s territories accepted during the 1994-2011 ceasefire period.