Burma’s 65-year-old Historic Panglong Agreement has been ignored up till now by successive Burmese regimes. The agreement has been overlooked by generals while they take charge of the country. The Panglong Agreement was signed on Feb 12 1947, between General Aung San and leaders of the Chin, Kachin and Shan ethnic groups, guaranteeing to establish a proper federal union of Burma.
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) took part in a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military regime in 1994 that finished a prolonged civil war but could not reach a political dialogue to claim self-determination. But, due to disagreement on the issue of border guard force plan, the war resumed last year.
Up till now, Burma’s President Thein Sein quasi-civilian government has been maneuvering war against the Kachin rebels constantly, although it has pledged to initiate a political reform with the intention of democratization. Starting from 9 June 2011, the cruel civil war claimed thousands of lives of both soldiers and ordinary civilians. It will be reached one year point in time tomorrow.
Last December, President Thein Sein has issued an instruction to Burma’s Commander-in-Chief to close down the offensive against the KIO. However, the war continues and people continue to run for their lives. So, the government’s reform pledge is not in agreement with the attempt of its armed forces.
If Thein Sein government has a realistic blueprint of political reform all over the country, the most important thing it ought to do is to stop the war in Kachin state in the first place. Human Rights Watch called on the Burmese government to ask the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Burma with a standard protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate.
While President Thein Sein government has been saying publicly that it will not change it reform-course to backward direction, government armed forces have been continuously deploying more battalions in areas held by Kachin Independence Army, military-wing of the KIO. It looks as if Burma Army has a plan to launch a comprehensive war.
On 10 March this year, the government’s peacemaking team and KIO peace delegation announced a joint-statement after peace talks for the third time at Jingcheng Hotel in Shweli, China.
According to the said joint-statement, the two sides have satisfied the peace talks between the Union level peace-making group of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and KIO’s central delegation. The peace talks have seen progress and the two sides could build trust during the meetings. The peace talks will continue through political means. The two sides believe that military tensions would be decreased as a result of the peace talks. The two sides agree to discuss the issues related to the outposts in conflict areas until the two sides reach an agreement and will carry on the agreement after setting dates.
Government armed forces on Kachin’s frontline territory was the most burning topic thrashed out during a private meeting last month between the government’s new peacemaking-team and KIO, as said by KIO officials.
The informal meeting, led by KIO’s Vice Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Gun Maw and Burmese peace-making team, led by Minister of Railways Aung Min, took place in Mai Ja Yang – the second largest town under KIO-controlled Bhamo district, Kachin state. The previous meeting with government peace negotiating team led by Aung Thaung, in Ruili in China’s southwest Yunnan province, failed to reach any durable outcome. Aung Thaung, a hardliner, was not included in the new peace mission.
The peace talks resumed following a meeting between Aung Min and two KIO officers, Dr. Laja and Brig-Gen Gun Maw in the Thai city Chiang Rai, on May 21. It is unreasonable that the government wishes to sign a ceasefire with the KIO ahead of a political answer to the conflict which started on 9 June and ended a 17-year old truce.
The KIO repeatedly pronounced their earlier demands to the government for the full withdrawal of all government armed forces in KIO territories including both Kachin and Northern Shan state. The KIO clearly told that peace talks will only be considered after government armed forces pulled out from the frontlines. If the government troops moved back, the conflict will be ended and no fresh ceasefire accord is necessary, said KIO officials.
The KIO is the largest non-ceasefire ethnic group in Burma. It wants a political pledge and not another ceasefire for the five-decade long conflict. Four previous political negotiations between the government players and KIO, in Ruili (Shweli), China, have failed to bear any fruit.
According to the Human Rights Watch 83-page report “‘Untold Miseries’: Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma’s Kachin State,” the Burmese army has cruelly attacked Kachin villages, razed homes, pillaged properties, and forced the displacement of tens of thousands of people. Soldiers have threatened and tortured civilians during interrogations and raped women. The army has also used anti-personnel mines, conscripted forced laborers, including children as young as 14, on the front lines.
HRW also said in its report released on 20 March that the Burmese government has committed serious abuses and blocked humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of displaced civilians since June 2011, in fighting in Burma’s northern Kachin State. Some 75,000 ethnic Kachin displaced persons and refugees are in desperate need of food, medicine, and shelter, HRW said.
Kachin State in Northern Burma is very important for energy-hungry China. Disobedient 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 forward. In addition, the Kachin State is home to many hydropower projects including Myitsone dam designed to supply large electricity to China.
If this unjust war in Kachin State will not end, Burma may not accomplish its expectant democratic reform run by the current government. The fact is that people throughout Burma are calling for general protest to establish peace in Kachin state.