19 July 2011

UN calls for ‘restraint’ in Burma’s Kachin State

Thomas Maung Shwe

CHIANG MAI: 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. -- Mizzima

18 July 2011

Burmese officials captured by Kachin army

TWO Burmese army officials and three soldiers have been captured by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) following two days of heavy fighting in northern Burma.

At the weekend a key highway linking Bhamo town to the Kachin state capital of Mytikyina was engulfed in a series of fire-fights after a truck carrying Burmese soldiers was stopped by Kachin troops.

The fight continued into Sunday when the KIA captured the five during an ambush. “They were found hiding in a drain after being pinned down in the [16 July] fight,” said a KIA source. “They were three privates and two officials – a sergeant and a captain.”

They are now in the group’s headquarters in Laiza, and no details have been given on their identity.

The capturing of troops has been a common tactic of both sides since heavy fighting broke out in Kachin state in June, but sometimes with grisly results: on 12 June the corpse of a captured KIA solider was returned displaying signs of torture, despite what the group had claimed was an agreement to exchange hostages unharmed.

The KIA claims the five men are being treated well in Laiza, but no independent verification of their condition can be obtained.

Thousands of ethnic Kachin have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of fighting, which was triggered by the KIA’s refusal to transform into a government-controlled Border Guard Force.

Large areas of Kachin state have also been brought to a standstill – buses are refusing to travel along the Bhamo-Myitkyina highway, and locals report of being stranded away from their homes. -- DVB

15 July 2011

Burma's Vice-President implicated in Kachin massacres


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 photographs 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. Full story at The Irrawaddy

14 July 2011

Ethnic leaders present ceasefire proposal to EU


SEVERAL ethnic leaders reported to EU officials about the ongoing conflicts in eastern Burma at a July 9 meeting in Bangkok at which they also called for the EU to broker political dialogue between Burma's government and its ethnic groups.

Leaders of an umbrella group of ethnic parties, the United Nationalities Federation Council (UNFC), told the European delegation that Burmese government forces had attacked the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Burma last month in a bid to protect Naypyidaw's business interests with China, said Nai Hang Thar, the secretary of the UNFC.

Nai Hang Thar, who is also secretary of the New Mon State Party, said the UNFC representatives had told the EU that thousands of refugees have been created as a result of the armed conflict.

“The ethnic leaders requested the EU to help them find solutions to the problems in Burma through political dialogue,” he said.

The KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, which is a member of the UNFC, has proposed—via the UNFC—a ceasefire to the new government.

“The KIO wants the UNFC to lead peace talks,” said Nai Hang Thar.

According to a KIO draft of a proposed ceasefire agreement, the KIA will only agree to a six-month ceasefire if Naypyidaw commits to a political dialogue in which the UNFC plays a leading role. Full story at The Irrawaddy

13 July 2011

From jailhouse to minefield


BANGKOK: “The soldiers told us if we were alive tomorrow we would be lucky,” said Tun Tun Aung, a prisoner originally from a town near Mandalay who was press-ganged into front-line duty by the Burmese Army along with 29 other convicts from Meiktila prison in December 2010.

He said there were about 1,000 prisoners in Karen State when his group arrived there, whereupon they were divided up into groups to carry bombs for the army. “We were never given food or water,” he said, recounting the arduous daily trek up mountains and through jungle, in the ever-dangerous region where Karen rebels have fought the Burmese Army since 1948.

His story is one of 58 separate accounts by Burmese convicts recorded by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) in a new report, “Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma,” which was released today at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The document, based on accounts given by convict porters who were reportedly coerced into duty but later managed to escape, outlines cases of torture, beatings and summary executions.

Since elections held on Nov 7, 2010, fighting between the Burmese Army and ethnic militias in Karen, Shan and Kachin states, which are home to sizable ethnic minorities, has increased, making it likely that the numbers of convict porters has gone up as the army engages in more fighting with the militias. Full story at The Irrawaddy

12 July 2011

Government compromise needed to avert all-out civil war: KIA


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. -- Full story at The Irrawaddy

11 July 2011

Kachins in Malaysia prayed for peace in Burma’s northern Kachin State

MORE than three hundreds of Kachins in Malaysia who are from Burma’s northern Kachin State participated in a mass prayer meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday 10 July 2011. It is learned that the prayer meeting is aimed for peace and security in Kachin State, Burma.

According to La Nu, one of the participants, there has been more than a month old civil war between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State. “That is why, regardless of our denominations, we Kachins in Malaysia gathered and prayed together for peace and security in Kachin State” said La Nu.

It is also learned that the Kachin communities around the world have been praying for peace and security in Kachin State since the fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA broke out. -- KBG

09 July 2011

Kachin army ambush leaves 30 dead

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. Full story at Democratic Voice of Burma

04 July 2011

Burmese diplomat seeks asylum in US

THE second highest-ranking diplomat at the Burmese embassy in Washington has defected, just three months after the formation of a new military-backed government that promised to usher in democratic reforms.

In a letter addressed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kyaw Win, the deputy chief of mission at the embassy, said he was seeking asylum because he had been “deemed dangerous” by the new regime for suggesting “actions to improve bilateral relations between Burma and the US.”

He also dismissed suggestions that the new government, formed after an election held last November, was trying to move the country closer to democracy.

“Senior military officials are consolidating their grip on power and seeking to stamp out the voices of those seeking democracy,” wrote Kyaw Win in the letter, adding that recent fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army near the border with China made this obvious.

He also warned that threats made by the Burmese government regarding pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now visiting the ancient city of Pagan in Upper Burma, “must be taken seriously.”

Kyaw Win, 59, is a career diplomat who has worked for the Burmese Foreign Ministry for 31 years, with postings in Madrid, Geneva, New Delhi, Brasilia and Washington. He has been serving in his current post at the Burmese embassy in Washington since 2008. Read full story at The Irrawaddy