By Zin Linn
Concerning the inhumane war in Kachin state, many people do not believe that the Burmese government has been going along a right reform path. As the government’s soldiers are violating various human rights on the Kachin frontline, many people start slamming the inconsistent peace policy of the Thein Sein regime.
During Ban Ki Moon’s recent visit to Rangoon and Nay Pyi Taw, the Secretary General asked all parties involved in the Kachin conflict to cease offensives and to find a peaceful resolution. However, the Burmese government did not care about the UN top envoy’s words. Ban’s three-day trip to Burma, which began April 29, coincided with the Burmese army escalating its offensive against KIO’s locations in Kachin state, especially around the rebels’ Laiza headquarters.
According to the Human Rights Watch 83-page report “‘Untold Miseries’: Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma’s Kachin State,” the Burmese army has cruelly attacked Kachin villages, razed homes, pillaged properties, and forced the displacement of tens of thousands of people. Soldiers have threatened and tortured civilians during interrogations and raped women. The army has also used antipersonnel mines and conscripted forced laborers, including children as young as 14, on the front lines.
HRW also said in the report, which was released on 20 March, that the Burmese government has committed serious abuses and blocked humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of displaced civilians since June 2011, in fighting in Burma’s northern Kachin State. Some 75,000 ethnic Kachin displaced persons and refugees are in desperate need of food, medicine, and shelter, HRW said.
At a press conference in Washington on Thursday following her meeting with Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, US secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the Obama administration is “concerned about violence in Kachin State in recent weeks”, KNG reported. She added “I was very pleased to hear about new mechanisms, both official and non-governmental, to encourage meaningful dialogue. And as I said, the government must do all it can do.”
On the contrary, heavy battles continued raging across Kachin land between the Kachin Independent Army and the Burmese government’s armed forces. KIA’s 10th Battalion under 1st Brigade has fought against the Burmese Army’s 382nd LIR between Hpare village and Wa Chyawn village on May 14. KIA sources say 10 Burmese soldiers were killed in action during this encounter, according to Kachinland News.
Heavy battles have been going on adjoining of Laja-yang and Nalung villages situated near Kachin administrative capital Laiza, Kachinland News (KLN) frontline sources reported. KIA’s HQ security forces and Burma Army’s soldiers from 388th LIR under MOC (3) and Momauk-based 320th LIR under MOC (21) had been fighting for the whole day on May 17.
It was said that the combined armed forces of KIA and All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF- Northern) overrun strategic Burma Army post in Laja-yang on April 27. As their base has fallen under control of the KIA, Burmese soldiers moved to a nearby higher mountain. A series of fierce battles took place when more reinforcements came to give support to those soldiers left on the mountain. Moreover Burmese soldiers attempted to recapture former post in Laja-yang area.
Burmese armed forces stationed at Hkangkai hill base reportedly fired several rounds of 105 mm shells to Na Lung and Laja Yang villages started 6 am on 17 May. Eyewitnesses in Laiza said that echoes of Burmese Army’s artillery fire could clearly hear from their places. Most artillery shells fell along the forest environs between Laja-yang and Laiza. Quoting the KIA sources, KLN reported that soldiers from ABSDF (North) joined them in this battle fought against Burmese armed forces.
Since fighting in areas close to Laiza began, the road between Laiza and Bahmo has temporarily been closed. Even though the sound of artillery firing was heard almost the whole day on 17 May, Laiza residents go on with their usual daily lives, a resident of Laiz told KLN.
If Thein Sein government has a genuine scheme of political reform all over the country, the first thing it must to do is to stop the war in Kachin state at any cost. Human Rights Watch called on the Burmese government to ask the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Burma with a standard protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate.
Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, reminds towards the international community that the situation in Burma’s Kachin state is not at a point of satisfactory. People of Burma have to go for a long way, particularly those in conflict areas, to meet the benefit from recent reform promises of the current quasi-civilian government.
In fact, the government’s armed forces are behind war crimes and crimes against humanity. The human rights violations of Burmese soldiers in Kachin State are grave breaches of international laws. It is also the duty of the current government to provide humanitarian assistance to thousands of war refugees and internally displaced populations in various ethnic states.
How much time does Burma need to bring about national reconciliation, a transition to democracy and full respect for human rights? The cost of further postponement will be paid in thousands of innocent lives, lost opportunities and prolonged civil war. President Thein Sein should not drag his feet to end war in Kachin state and also should not hesitate honoring ethnic people’s self-determination.