Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ethnic bloc calls for end to Kachin conflict

Thursday, 03 January 2013 12:50 Hin Tha Ni

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) issued a statement on January 1 calling for the Burmese government to order a halt to the Burmese army’s military offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

One of two Burmese air force fighter jets that attacked KIO positions at Laja Yang on December 28, 2012. (Photo: Free Burma Rangers)

Likewise, an alliance of 11 Kachin NGOs and groups issued a similar joint statement on December 31 calling for an end to airstrikes on KIA positions and to instead pursue political dialogue with the Kachin army.

The UNFC statement said, “[Successive Burmese governments] have tried to solve their problems with the ethnic minorities by military means alone for many years. These problems cannot be solved as such; consequently the country has fallen ‘behind the times’ and the people are suffering as a result. However, the government fails to learn lessons from its mistakes of the past and continues with its military strategy—a very silly action.”

The UNFC alliance, which is formed of Karen, Kachin, Karenni, Mon and other ethnic armies, warned the central government that if it continues with its military offensive, then it will bear the consequences.

Moon Nay Li, a spokesperson for the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), said that the eleven Kachin groups which signed the joint statement believe that the conflict in Kachin State can be solved peacefully through political dialogue.

“The situation is very insecure for the refugees,” she told Mizzima. “The Burmese forces have carried out a major military offensive while peace talks are ongoing. This creates obstacles for the peacemaking process in Burma.”

According to Moon Nay Li, there are about 25,000 war refugees in the Laja Yang area and about 20,000 refugees in Laiza.

She said that at least 500 new refugees recently arrived in Kutkai in northern Shan State where they were in desperate need of foods, blankets, warm clothes, medicines and other supplies.

The winter period can see sub-zero temperatures in the mountainous regions where many of the refugees are sheltering in makeshift tents. The KWAT spokeswoman said that children and the elderly were especially susceptible to disease at this time of year.

Peace negotiations were held between a government delegation led by Minister Aung Min and KIO representatives on October 20 when both sides agreed to resolve issues through political dialogue. The commitment was reconfirmed at a similar meeting on November 9.
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