Friday, January 6, 2012

KIO: Gov’t troop buildup continues


Friday, 06 January 2012 17:25 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – The Burmese army has “visibly increased” its presence with 600 soldiers now entrenched about 20 miles from its headquarters in Laiza, on the border with China, says a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization. More reinforcements arrived in Bhamo, adding more government soldiers on the front lines.

KIO troops say they are being surrounded and pressured by regular clashes with government troops, in spite of so called cease-fire talks. Photo: KNG

Since Tuesday, there have been about a dozen armed clashes, KIO officials said.

The KIO said the army now has more than 130 battalions confronting the KIO, in what is the largest military offensive in more than 20 years.

The government’s renewed pressure comes even as British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in Burma this week, and other western leaders are calling for an end to ethnic fighting as a condition for better relations.

Government troops continue to wage armed combat against the KIO in Manmaw (Bhamo) district, Waingmaw Township and Myitkyina Township in Kachin State, and Kutkai, Namtu, Muse and Nam Hkam townships in Northern Shan State, according to the website. The renewed conflict began in June after President Thein Sein called for negotiations with ethnic armed groups and a halt to military offensives, except for defensive purposes.

A major fallout from the conflict has been a massive exodus of refugees to the China border area. Some estimates say tens of thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes, with most unable to receive any aid from international NGOs or UN agencies because of the government’s blocking of access to the area.

During meetings over the past several months in northern Thailand, Burma's peace envoy, Aung Min, has reached out to the Kachin and four other armed groups, promising to drop an earlier demand that they become border forces under Burmese army command.

Other incentives included economic development, freedom of travel for unarmed ethnic leaders and a national conference to seek political solutions to ethnic issues.

In a significant breakthrough, the government reached a preliminary cease-fire agreement with the Shan State Army, one of the biggest armed groups, that includes the opening of liaison offices, co-operating in combating narcotics and promises of talks to discuss area demarcation.

Mulitiple cease-fire talks have increased hope about Burma's future following a series of reforms by the government last year.

A senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch, David Mathieson, said while the government has the right to conduct counter-insurgency operations against rebels, years of war have produced a culture of impunity for serious crimes such as forced labour, use of child soldiers, sexual violence against women and young girls, extrajudicial executions and torture of civilians.

The South-East Asia director of the International Crisis Group, Jim Della-Giacoma, said a “lasting solution to the problem requires going beyond just stopping the wars.”

“Multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious Burma can only achieve genuine national unity and reconciliation by embracing its diversity,” he said.

The KIO was formed in 1961 in reaction to the Burmese government's failure to implement the Panglong agreement, which called for full civil rights and poitical autonomy.

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