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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1588

Burma keeps civil war while promising reforms

By - Zin Linn

What really happened to people in Kachin State? Why don’t government’s armed forces stop fighting in Kachin State? Who is taking advantage of this unreasonable war? There are lot of questions relating to this inhumane war launched by Burmese government against the Kachin ethnic people.

If current government has genuine political reform plan, first of all, it should announce unilaterally ceasefire to show sympathy on the war victims or innocent civilians. Government must take into consideration that this war actually is wasting many lives of country’s manpower.

In hope of setting up political dialogue, the KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the central government on February 24, 1994. However, no political dialogue happened in the 17-year ceasefire time and the KIO was intimidated to remove weapons and transform into the Burmese Army-controlled Border Guard Force (BGF) ahead of the 2010 November 7 election. The KIO turned down the BGF plan, saying it cannot accept weakening its armed wing.

KIA officials repeatedly said the civil war will spread across Kachin and Shan states if the government expanded its aggressive offensive against the KIO. The latest series of armed clashes in Kachin state have prompted observers to think that war in the border regions may not be avoidable.

Last week, over 1,500 Kg of rice recently harvested by farmers in war-torn Kachin state were set ablaze by government soldiers in Waingmaw Township on the Myitkyina-Bhamo road, according to eye witnesses report posted in the Kachin News Group.

On February 16 and 17, soldiers from the Meiktila-based Light Infantry Division No. 88 ransacked a great quantity of rice in the Mali Yang village. The arson attack followed heavy fighting in the area between the Burmese army and fighters from Brigade 5 of the Kachin Independence Army.

Looting or destroying farmer's crop is a common policy of Burma Army to carry out it as communal penalty in conflict zones. Recent reports released by Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights show that civilians in Kachin and northern Shan state have put up with the army's nine month offensive against the Kachin Independence Organization.

Although the government described itself as it is on the democratic reform path, but its armed forces continue destroying civilians’ properties and killing unarmed civilians. Fighting has been particularly intense in northern Shan State along the proposed route of the Shwe gas pipeline project.

Peace talks between the two sides which were expected to be held last week failed to take place after the Burmese government delegation objected to meet again in China.

However, the civil war that made the country to be obsolete has been going on for over six decades. Although the government has been attempting through two peacemaking teams, the key ethnic rebel groups, Karen National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) are still unconvinced of the move for political settlement.

The ethnic armed groups do not trust fully on government’s offer for peace talks. The fact is that while offering peace plan, the government has been increasing its deployment of armed forces in the conflict zones. Besides, the Burma Army’s soldiers are on the loose committing lots of crimes and human rights abuses in the ethnic territories.

The difficulties of ending the war against the KNU and the KIO are entwined with the natural resources profits in the respective ethnic states. Myitsone dam venture and Shwe-gas twin pipeline development projects are entangled with war against KIO and Dawei deep sea-port multi-billion mega projects need security guarantee by the KNU.

Moreover, the government wants to show the international community that their peacemaking course is on the progress. By doing so, the regime could earn the trust from the Western democracies and sanctions may lift at the same time.

In February, it seemed more skirmishing between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and government armed forces, even though there were reports about ceasefire or peace talks next week, according to Kachin News Group (KNG).

Since the end of a 17-year ceasefire between the Burmese government and the KIO in June 2010, more than 70,000 war refugees have abandoned their homes in native Kachin and northern Shan state. The huge majority of the refugees have fled to KIO areas where the UN and international NGO's have been unreachable.

Government should not take too much time to end this unnecessary civil war which is the main cause of the country’s economic deficiency. It is illogical to continue a civil war while finding a way for poverty alleviation in the country.

- Asian Tribune –

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