Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Burma must end civil war ahead of reforms

Burma must end civil war ahead of reforms

By Zin Linn Feb 22, 2012 12:33AM UTC

What really happened to people in Kachin State? Why don’t the government’s armed forces stop fighting there? Who is taking advantage of this unreasonable war? There are lots 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 call a unilateral ceasefire to show sympathy on the war victims and innocent civilians. It should think over the result of this war, a waste of many lives.

In the 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 and the KIO was pressured to give up its weapons and transform into a 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 would 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 warfare in the border regions may not be avoidable.

Last week, over 1,500kg 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, eyewitnesses told Kachin News Group.

On February 16 and 17, soldiers from the Meiktila-based Light Infantry Division No. 88 ransacked a great quantity of rice paddies in 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 farmers’ crops is a common policy of Burma Army to carry out communal penalties in conflict zones.

Although the government says it is on the democratic reform path, its armed forces continued destroying civilians’ properties and killing unarmed civilians this month. Even though the battle between the KIO and government troops seemed to ease earlier this year, the intensity of the warfare has gradually increased over the past few weeks.
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 meeting again in China.
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 the government’s offer of peace talks. The fact is that while offering a 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. The Myitsone Dam venture and Shwe-gas twin pipeline development projects are entangled with war against KIO and the Dawei deepsea port project needs a security guarantee from the KNU.

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

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 majority of the refugees have fled to KIO areas where the UN and international NGOs have been unreachable.

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