Burma/Myanmar Ministry of Defense in Nay Pyi Taw delivered a press release dated 28 January 2013 via the state-run newspapers Tuesday. According to its press release, some internal and external organizations, embassies and media issued fabricated news concerning armed conflicts in Kachin State. Defense Ministry accused organizations, embassies and media have been fabricating misunderstanding of people over the government and its armed forces.
The pronouncements acknowledged the government armed forces’ offensive operations close to Laiza, the KIA headquarters. But those organizations failed to state the atrocities of KIA including destroying of lives and property of innocent people, abduction, striking a series of civilian targets such as roads and bridges, Defense Ministry mentioned. It said that those organizations turned a blind eye to the actual events and issued fabricated news. Such biased news could cause misunderstanding in the public and international community.
The Defense Ministry’s statement also says that government is constantly endeavoring to achieve ceasefire and peace agreement with all ethnic armed groups with the aim of building national reconciliation. Consequently, peace agreements have been reached with all ethnic armed groups except KIO/KIA. It is the Tatmadaw (Burma Army) that is taking every possible step along with the government to ensure peace, the press statement says.
It is the KIA that started attack government troops, who were going to address the seizure of two Tatmadaw officers and one private who discharged security duty at Tapein Hydropower Project, by KIA.
The Tatmadaw strictly followed the instructions of the President Office to halt offensive operations except self-defense. KIA exploits the situation and attacks the Tatmadaw camps and Tatmadaw columns with mines, leaving many officers and other ranks dead or injured, it complains. The press release also accuses KIA of attacking civilian targets such as roads, bridges, towers and government buildings as well as government departments including police stations.
Moreover it also claims that due to the terrorist attacks of KIA, the Tatmadaw inevitably cleared and attacked the KIA stronghold in Lajanyan region including Point 771 hill starting from 27 December 2012.
Besides, Defense Ministry gives explanation that Tatmadaw halted the regional clearance operations in Lajanyan region since 6.00 am 19 January 2013 since it has achieved the limited objective of ensuring the security in Lajanyan region and the security of Myitkyina-Bhamo high way. However, it had to react for self-defence when KIA came and attacked Tatmadaw columns.
According to the media reports, the fresh attacks on KIO locations near Laiza occured just days after Burma Army’s Northern Commander sent a letter to the KIO HQ. The letter signed by Brig-Gen Tun Tun Naung demands KIO pull out its troops stationed around Lajayang immediately. However, the KIO rejected the demand, by saying it will not withdraw from Lajayang or any other areas of strategic value in and around the Laiza.
It is horrendous because the government had used not only heavy artillery but also enforced gunship-helicopters and jet-fighters during military operation against the ethnic Kachin rebels at Lajanyan including Point 771 hill. The news about government airstrikes is hitting the headlines through the media.
Even though the Defense Ministry said its troops stopped offensive operations except self-defense, its soldiers have increasingly sped up the offensive war to a new phase. It is not clear whether the government is saying one thing and doing another or the soldiers themselves are going against the President’s orders. Nevertheless, human rights violations of Burmese soldiers in ethnic states must be taken responsibility by both military chief and the President since abuses are intolerable breaches of international laws.
“The Tatmadaw had to inevitably react for self-defense for security of lives and property, smooth and secure transportation and community peace and tranquility,” the statement says so.
On the contrary, people do not support the explanation of the Defense Ministry, as day to day events on the Kachin frontline come up continually through the media reports sent by the reliable war reporters from battle-zones. Burmese government armed forces operate a number of aggressive attacks in January in Kachin State even though suffering a heavy death toll. Fighting goes on fatally around KIO headquarters. All the fierce battles have occurred in KIO’s territories where the government soldiers intentionally enter by force or no more a self-protective battle.
The statement also says: “The Tatmadaw is in the process of providing necessary aids to local people who were displaced due to lack of security. In the process, it is airlifting supplies for locals in Putao who are facing the shortage of food.”
But, it seems diametrically opposed with the situation on the ground. The UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, publicly urged Burmese government in last December to allow the UN to resume aid consignments to refugee camps in non-government controlled parts of Kachin state held by the KIO.
“For almost six months now, the UN has not been able to provide assistance to almost 40,000 people as we are not permitted to go to KIA-controlled areas,” Ms. Valerie Amos told a news conference during her four day visit to Burma in December 2012.
“We hope the Government will give us permission to travel to these areas and provide the aid that is so desperately needed,” Ms. Amos added.
Although the Under-Secretary-General Ms. Amos has made a candid call, President Thein Sein did not allow the UN to resume aid delivery so far.
Most of the refugees had fled wartime abuses in Kachin State such as forced labor, killings, rape, and torture by the government soldiers, as said by the various human rights watch groups.
Hence, Defense Ministry’s press release may not erase the real things taking place throughout the Kachin front-line battles. According to some analysts, as Burma Army used nearly hundred battalions with heavy artillery and airstrikes against the KIO on its birthright territory, no one dare say it was a defensive warfare rather than an aggressive invasion. Defense Ministry’s press release seems in vain