Burma: Kachin conflict becomes international tug of war
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Burma: Kachin conflict becomes international tug of war

Interference from Japan, China and even the US could hamper the peace process in Kachin State

The Government of Burma (officially known as Myanmar) and the European Union agree that there is now an historic opportunity to secure lasting peace in Burma and for bringing prosperity to ethnic areas after decades of conflict. The Myanmar Peace Center will work towards this goal. It shall build confidence and it shall advance the respect for political and human rights, the European Commission said in a November 2012 statement.

Meanwhile, according to the Kachinland News, the Burmese army sent more reinforcements to the Kachin region when as the two sides were preparing to meet in China-Burma border town Ruili on March 11, 2013. Fighting continued in Kachin and northern Shan State as Burmese army further encroached into territories controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and its allies.

Referring local sources, Kachinland News states that Burmese armed forces’ movements have been increased, especially in Pangwa areas and northern Shan State since middle of February.

A battle took place between KIA and government soldiers at Man Kang Bum on March 25. During the battle, the KIA’s 17th Battalion under 4th Brigade clashed with government armed forces 323rd Light Infantry unit accompanied by Kawng-Hka people-militia formed by Burma Army.

Moreover, KIA’s 10th Battalion under 1st Brigade fought against a combined force of Burmese army units and Border Guard Force near near Pangwa on March 25. A series of skirmishes took place in Kachin and northern Shan State despite government officials declaring that war has been stopped between government troops and ethnic armies. Local sources reported that reinforcement of government troops and transportation of military supplies to frontline areas has continued in the recent weeks.

The Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) have agreed to continue their unfinished talks on a permanent ceasefire some time after Burmese New Year, which takes place in mid-April.  The last meeting on topic of military positions between two armies was held in the Chinese border town of Ruili on 11 March 2013. The negotiations in China brought about a helpful progress after the most recent heavy fighting.


A Kachin soldier mans a frontline position near the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization, in Laiza, Burma. Pic: AP.

“Recently, the Myanmar peace talks in Thailand were sponsored by the Japanese; while at the meeting at Ruili, China, opposite Muse in Shan State, a border town of Sino-Burma, the Chinese were directly involved. According to some reports, the Chinese even interfered with the internal affairs. The Japanese and Chinese are rivals. If these two major powers take a leading role in the peace process, I doubt it will go smoothly. In order to balance these two influential countries, the U.S should consider taking a leading role for Myanmar’s peace process,” Khuensai Jaiyen, editor-in-chief of the Shan Herald Agency for News, told at the press conference on March 18 at FCCT in Bangkok, which was arranged by Burma News International (BNI).

“As Chinese officers were present at the Ruili meeting, some decisions could not be made: for instance, humanitarian assistance and ceasefire monitoring. If those items were included in the agenda, NGOs from the West would flood in; this seems to make the Chinese nervous. So, if the Chinese and Japanese are pulling strings on each side, the peace process would go nowhere; it may take longer than necessary,” Khuensai Jaiyen said.

A planned meeting in early April in Myitkyina between the KIO and the government peacemaking team was postponed until later in the month as international observers invited by the KIO are unable to attend, Mizzima News said.