26 September 2011

Four days of heavy fighting in Northern Burma


THE civil war in northern Burma intensified over the last four days as heavy fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) raged across northern Shan State from Friday morning.

The Burmese military reportedly used 17 battalions and an artillery regiment—totaling 1,000 troops in all—to attack KIA strongholds in areas near the towns of Kutkai, Muse, Hseni, Kunglong and Namtu in regions by the Chinese border.

“Intense fighting is still going on and the government is using heavy artillery. We were forced to evacuate some of our controlled areas,” said Col Zau Raw, the military commander of KIA forces in Shan State. He added that more than a 1,000 of his troops have been engaged in defensive guerrilla warfare against government attacks.

The official claimed that the government army has suffered more than 100 casualties while a KIA officer was killed and a few others wounded during the latest fighting. He also revealed that another local armed ethnic group, the Shan State Army, also fought alongside the KIA against the government's military offensive.

The recent fighting has been the most intense since clashes first broke out near the Chinese-built hydropower plants in Bhamo Township, Kachin State, in June which ended a 17-year ceasefire, according to KIA officials.

Efforts by both sides to renew the ceasefire agreement have failed with the government rejecting KIA demands for an all-inclusive political dialogue between ethnic armed groups and Naypyidaw.

The military objective of the offensive remains unclear, but KIA spokesman La Nan believes that the government intends to weaken Kachin forces to get an upper hand in future rounds of negotiations. Full story at The Irrawaddy

22 September 2011

Myitsone Dam Outrage Turns Toward China


Amidst growing tension between the Burmese public and government related to the controversial Myitsone Dam construction project, which is moving ahead despite the possibility of an enormous social and environmental impact, the focus of public anger is apparently shifting towards China.

On Monday, a rumor spread that public protests against the dam project were about to be held in front of the Chinese embassy in Rangoon. Burmese authorities increased security in the area, which apparently foiled the planned protest. But on Tuesday, a Burmese man was arrested for staging a solo protest against the dam project near the Chinese government's cultural office in Rangoon, according to an AFP report.

These incidents reflect what observers say is a growing level of anti-Chinese sentiment in Burma, stemming primarily from major Chinese investments in the country such as the Myitsone Dam project and a strategic oil pipeline being constructed from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province through Central Burma. Each of these investment deals were made by the authoritarian rulers of Burma’s previous junta without taking into account the opinion of the general population.

“This Myitsone project will destroy the flow of the Irrawaddy River and will further intensify the public outrage over it,” said Chan Tun, a former ambassador of Burma to China. “On the other hand, if the Chinese government continues this project, I suspect that it could result in anti-Chinese riots like those in the 1960s in our country.”

China, a staunch defender of the oppressive junta and major arms supplier for the Burmese military, has long been seen as a nemesis by the Burmese public. But the 6,000 mega watt Myitsone Dam, being built on the Irrawaddy River, Burma’s largest and most important waterway, has inflamed anti-Chinese sentiment among the Burmese public more than any issue since 1967, when anti-Chinese riots broke out in Burma. Full story at The Irrawaddy