BURMA

Kachin Refugees Fearful after Fighting Escalates

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Kachin refugees are seen in a tent at a rescue camp in the Chinese southwestern border city of Ruili, Yunnan province early this year. (Photo: Reuters)

Kachin refugees are seen in a tent at a rescue camp in the Chinese southwestern border city of Ruili, Yunnan province early this year. (Photo: Reuters)

LAIZA, Burma—Ethnic Kachins living in makeshift camps in Burma described their terror at the army’s use of air power during fighting with Kachin rebels seeking more autonomy, as the government said it has exercised maximum restraint.

The escalation of attacks has made the lives of a claimed 100,000 Kachin displaced since fighting began more than 19 months ago even more perilous. Many are in camps in or near Laiza, the Kachin guerrilla-held town right by the border with China.

“We are really afraid and can’t sleep well at nights,” said Dashi Lu, 60, from Daw Hpun Yang village, about a day’s walk from the Laiza camp where she has lived for a year.

“If I were small enough, I would hide under a leaf,” she said Friday.

The government said in a statement Friday that the army had been given orders to cease all offensives against Kachin Independence Army guerrillas, but that it had to protect its soldiers after the Kachin continued to set off land mines and ambush government forces.

The Kachin, like Burma’s other ethnic minorities, have long sought greater autonomy from the central government. They are the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a cease-fire agreement with elected President Thein Sein’s reformist government, which came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of military rule.

More than 19 months of fighting between the two sides escalated on Christmas Day, when the rebels rejected a government demand that supply convoys be allowed to reach an army base, contending that they carried ammunition that could be used to attack their nearby headquarters.

The government then used fighter planes and helicopters to mount attacks and seized one of the guerrillas’ hilltop outposts.

“Now, there is intense fighting in the vicinity of the camps and everyone is fearful,” said Salang Kaba Doi Pyi Sa, head of the Kachin’s refugee relief committee. “If the army uses heavy artillery, it can reach the camps.”

Dashi Lu, the displaced villager, said that for safety’s sake, she had already a year ago fled the village home in which she had lived all her life, along with her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Her son is with the Kachin guerrillas and she hasn’t heard from him for three months.

“I thought we were safe but these days, the military bombardments make us very fearful,” she said. “There’s no place for us to run again.”

The government said in the statement that because the guerrillas would not let the convoys through, it “had to take military action as self-defense and in order to protect the safety of lives and properties of the people, safe and smooth transportation and peace and tranquility of the region.”

It added that the military had to take action but exercised “maximum restraint” in the use of force. It also said the positions from which the military dislodged the Kachin were in uninhabited territory.

Fighting initially erupted in Kachin state in June 2011 after the KIA refused to abandon a strategic base near a hydropower plant that is a joint venture with a Chinese company.

The government last month delivered an ultimatum to the Kachin to clear a road by Christmas Day so it could supply its base. The Kachin rejected the ultimatum for fear of a government attack on their own outpost.

The Kachin have been reaching out for help from the international community.

A network of Kachin support groups on Thursday sent a letter to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross to take action against the “daily escalation of attacks” by the army and to protect the Kachin civilians.

It claimed the government was utilizing Chinese airspace for its offensive, and that the Kachin could not flee to safety because China had closed the border to them, while Burma’s government blocked relief assistance.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday that during armed clashes between Burmese government forces and Kachin rebels on the night of Dec. 30, three bombs landed in the Chinese border area but did not cause casualties.

Hua added that while the Chinese government regarded the fighting as Burma’s internal affair, Beijing still hoped that the Burmese government would address the issue through “peaceful negotiation with relevant parties.”

China is a key ally of Burma as the country’s main aid donor and investor. But relations have cooled as Thein Sein’s government has reached out to the West to help kick-start economic growth. Many Western nations have eased economic and political sanctions that were imposed against the previous military government for its repressive policies. But Kachin state’s position on the Chinese border means Beijing can still exercise its influence over both sides.

The United States earlier said the use of air power in Kachin state is “extremely troubling.” On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US is seeking clarity on the situation following conflicting statements from Burmese authorities, and is urging both the government and Kachin representatives to stop fighting.

“Our view is that all sides need to cease and desist and get into dialogue with each other,” she told a news briefing.


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3 Responses to Kachin Refugees Fearful after Fighting Escalates

  1. Dear Victoria Nuland, we can not leave our HQ to go for peace talk as the Burmese army are now at our door step and relentlessly shooting us with all kinds of Gun. We ask them to give us a breathing space to talk, which is neglected, instead increase the military action for final elimination with the most hazardous means (Airstrikes, Chemicals, absolute brutal measures not only on the KIA but also over all civilians on their way). Unless you stop them from their relentless aggression in Kachin soil, the talks will not happen, but grinding each other until all pinions teared down to the China.

  2. True to the change of line of its funders, Irrawaddy (now no longer worthy of its namesake) has been consistently supportive of this fake “Democracy by Bulldozers (Bulldocracy)” of Thein Sein fronted Sit-tut since that treacherous, always mild amused and self-conceited,supercilious Aung San Suu Kyi has defected even though the blind faith the multitudes keep on her still for their own self- comfort is surely not her fault.

    Now that disgraceful, unjustifiable, desperate action of Sit-tut using photogenic flights have unsuppressively surfaced, the American led “west” felt obliged to make some noise (although well short of the wishful journalistic interpretation of “condemnation”) and even dear Aung Zaw of “Thamada-Gyi Wun Swae” felt obliged to “reprimand” dear, dear Aunty Suu.

    But this article does encapsulate the thinking of the propaganda arm of Thein Sein which has been usually spectacular even letting their charge (Thein Sein) to have prepared BBC interview and all that.

    So, it was the Kachin who started the war. By not letting these poor little Chinese (the would be saviours of the world according to many except massacred sharks and rhinoes and oh! almost forgot, the people gunned down at the Chinese mines all over Africa) to built dams in the pristine river. And that act of sacrilege was supported by all electricity loving creatures who at the same time are lovers of “nature” as well going for vacations to pristine places full of brothels. So disgusting- these Kachins. And so uncaring and unkind to their would be killers by refusing to stop the fighting to give vitamins to the butchers.

    International help is simple. Every one wants to loot and rape the land Burma and enslave people as cheap, manual workers evicting them from their own home and land. That much is not in dispute. And that desire is whole heartedly supported by all loud mouths including Aung San Suu Kyi to get those so, so important electricity (most electricity will be of course for these factories of these corporations), factories ,multi-story houses and big, big smooth, paved roads to take the loots out. And the “west” (which includes Japan and Korea) would full heartedly support that. Chinese interest is the global interest.

    So long as Kachin gets jade from their mine, there will always be gun sellers. Illegal gun (arms they call it) market and narcotic (opium, ATS- both Burmese speciality) trade are the very one keeping the world’s finances afloat. (More so in Burma- brisk trade in both). Even without that, no amount of airplane can route out a native populace from jungle hide-outs, Only treachery among the Kachins themselves can. But that is not likely to happen as the cruelty of Sit-tut especially recently has been acting as powerful single most uniting/ recruitment force for KIA. Soros’ direct personal intervention with billions of dollar war chest may change the picture. Not by military way but by bribery way.

    AAs it stands now Kachins have to thank Min Aung Hlaing for photogenic, spectacular and bumbling charges of little effect. One even start to wonder Min Aung Hlaing is in fact a closet Kachin or a Baptist Christian. What with the way he has been turning massive number of Burmese youths into Kachin Forest Fertilizer.

    It does appear their American master, who had high hopes to put their own bases in or at least cooperate in pretend anti-China stance on Burmese soil giving out “counter-insurgency measure” and all that, are having some doubt about his personal skill of killing people quietly. Now camera men are everywhere in anticipation of taking grotesque pictures of likely civilian carnage. Nuland would be busy. Better move out and go after Susan Rice’s job.

  3. Yadana wrote that “In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday that during armed clashes between Burmese government forces and Kachin rebels on the night of Dec. 30, three bombs landed in the Chinese border area but did not cause casualties.

    Hua added that while the Chinese government regarded the fighting as Burma’s internal affair, Beijing still hoped that the Burmese government would address the issue through “peaceful negotiation with relevant parties.”

    If the fighting will damage hydro power project, do idiot communist China will tell that it is internal affair? If there is no green light from China, than shwe does not dare to kill Kachin. Because there is no solution between China and corrupted than shwe who take all under table money from China without any division or portion to local Kachin. At present , than shwe also stirs up the Rohingya and anti-China ( copper mining ) for the trick of his political maneuver to show China that he is in the small troubles. Than shwe also shows China that Obama can help him any time with US military power.It is copied from General Aung san who asked and requested Japan and British alternately for the sake of country. However, than shwe is for his own benefit to play the game with future giant communist China. Let see the communist China is real idiot or not. If China is not involved in real fact finding with US in all Burmese ethnic issues ( like North Korea problem), China will lost all support from Burmese, particularly all ethnics. We, Burmese are not similar to the people of North Korea who hate US from for the initiation of deadly Korean war. Failure of support from Hong Kongers means Communist China is poor in political maneuver , unable to solve the high gap of poor and rich because of the sky-rising price of properties which are the basic need for people. Save or change Burma before too late.

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