Saturday, January 19, 2013

Burmese govt announces unilateral ceasefire in Kachin conflict


Saturday, 19 January 2013 14:27 Mizzima News

The Burmese government on Friday announced that it was calling a halt to its military offensive against the Kachin Independence Army with effect from 6 am on Saturday, January 19.

Burmese govt announces unilateral ceasefire in Kachin conflict

The announcement was made by the Ministry of Information just hours after the country’s Lower House of Parliament voted to approve a motion calling for a ceasefire in the 19-month-long conflict.

"The commander-in-chief reaffirmed that the military will follow the command of the President not to carry out offensive attacks except in self-defense," the Information Ministry said in a statement.

“But in an armed conflict, both sides need to halt attacks to cool tensions," the Ministry said, accusing the KIA of sabotaging roads, rail networks and other infrastructure.

The move to end hostilities comes as the Burmese forces were launching a series of assaults on KIA front line positions within a few miles of Laiza, the Sino-Burmese border town that serves as the Kachin rebels’ headquarters.

The government forces had recently intensified their offensive, pounding the Kachin positions with air strikes from fighter jets and helicopter gunships.

But following reports of civilian deaths and several artillery shells landing on the Chinese side of the border, the Burmese government has increasingly found itself on the receiving end of criticism from Beijing, Washington, the United Nations and other members of the international community.

Some 75,000 villagers are estimated to have been displaced in the conflict since an original ceasefire was broken in June 2011.

The exact number of military casualties is unknown, but the government said on Friday that 35 Burmese soldiers had been killed and 190 injured by the rebels since 2011, the first official death toll announced from the government’s side.

The Burmese government has successfully negotiated ceasefires with at least 11 armed ethnic groups over the past two years, with the KIA remaining the only major ethnic militia to resist a truce.

Focus will now return to the peace table where a government delegation led by Aung Min this week confirmed that it was still ready to meet the KIA for peace talks, an offer the Kachins rejected while hostilities continued to rage.
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