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7-13 January: Burma Must End Offensives and Dialogue with Ethnic Armed Groups for a National Political Settlement

January 14, 2013

We have entered a new year after a year and a half of fighting between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Since the war started, it is estimated that up to 100,000 people have been displaced. These refugees are living in Burma’s coldest area and receive very little humanitarian assistance as aid workers, including those from the United Nations, are often denied access to them.

The intensity of war against the KIA has reached a crisis point after the Burma Army launched a series of air strikes in late December. After exposure of footage on the internet of the air strikes the government had no choice but to admit the use of military jets and attack helicopters in carrying out targeted attacks. Today, the Burma Army injured and killed civilians in its attack on Laiza, the KIA headquarters. Yet the government still insists that it is not launching offensives but acting in self-defence. It is now unthinkable how far the Burma Army might go to win this war.

Lt-Gen Yawdserk, leader of Shan State Army-South, which still faces attacks by the Burma Army even after signing ceasefire, said they have a ceasefire only “with the government, but not with the Army”. It is not surprising since President Thein Sein’s two orders to halt offensives in Kachin State were never honored. This is precisely why the KIA insists on “political talk” before “ceasefire talk” because they had 17 years of ceasefire already and they know well how little these talks mean that they simply don’t believe in them anymore.

Although destruction of public transport infrastructure is the only reason given so far by the government as to why it is at war with the KIA, all the other ethnic armed groups that used to face similar accusations are aware that this is just an excuse and that there is more that motivates the Burma Army.

Awareness of the situation in Kachin State among the general public, civil society and the international community has grown fast with several calls to end the war. Another round of protests calling for the end of conflict were held in Rangoon on 1 January, while hundreds of Kachin people from China protested in Nanbang, a Chinese border town next to Kachin State’s Laiza, to show solidarity. More protests were held in Bangkok, Washington, and Toronto. Ban Ki-moon called to stop “actions that could endanger the lives of civilians or promote further conflict” and the US and UK said they are deeply concerned by the situation.

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) stated that its members will no longer engage in ceasefire or peace talks with the government on an individual basis and called on President Thein Sein to prove that he can show effective leadership and influence over the Burma Army. However, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and certainly Kachin communities worldwide, as illustrated in their follow-up letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, might feel somewhat frustrated by the little effort made by the people in the right positions. Daw Suu has publicly said it is “up to the government” whether she could intervene.

Extended offensives using excessive force seem to be the Burma Army’s strategy to completely wipe out the KIA. Yet what the Burma Army should have realized long ago is that defeat of the KIA does not defeat Kachin armed resistance. The same goes for all other ethnic armed groups. KIA commander Gwan Maw, in an interview with The Voice Weekly, said that the KIO (the political wing of the KIA) agrees that there should be only one chief of Burma’s armed forces. He explained that the KIO wants the regime to form a Union Army under which the KIA is willing to reorganize its troops, and they want another conference like Panglong, an agreement made in 1947 between several ethnic nationalities and the newly independent government of Burma guaranteeing autonomy and equality. It is very simple what they ask for yet fighting goes on.

In fact, all ethnic armed groups as well as ethnic civil society and communities have been calling for another Panglong-like conference outside the framework of the Parliament. Almost all ethnic conflicts in Burma are motivated by the breaking of the promises made in the Panglong Agreement by successive military regimes. Thein Sein’s government, with the willingness and endorsement of the Burma Army, must genuinely commit to a similar conference to end all ethnic-related conflicts and find a political settlement to guarantee the autonomy and equality of all ethnic nationalities once and for all.

News Highlights

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi criticizes the provision in the 2008 Constitution that prohibits her from becoming president because her family members are foreign citizens

Inside Burma

Parliament starts a new session

Government forms anti-graft committee and two committees to promote the development of small and medium enterprises

Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Leading Authority to identify ways to improve the management and sustainability of Burma’s natural resources

Ministry of Mining drops its defamation lawsuit against The Voice Weekly

Major clashes take place between the Burma Army and Shan State Army near the Thai border

Newly elected Karen National Union leaders travel to Naypyidaw to meet with government ministers and tell Burma Army Chief it wants a nationwide ceasefire

A teenager who was attacked by Burma Army soldiers after accidently hitting them on his motorbike, dies from his injuries

Ministry of Information announces that private, daily newspapers will be allowed to be published from April

Myanmar National Human Rights Commission says the subject of human rights will be added to basic education curriculum

Four peaceful protesters are jailed for six months after demonstrating when they were forced to stop work at the Moehti Moemi gold mine

Leaders of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma arrive in Rangoon for the first time in over a decade


Talk of repatriation spurs tension in refugee camps on the Thai border

Thai authorities deports Rohingya back to Burma and raid two Rohingya Trafficking Camp;  hundreds reach Langkawi, Malaysia and Indonesian Foreign Ministers visits Arakan State

China warns Burma as bombs aimed for KIA positions land in China and sends troops to the border

China says it has guaranteed the continuation of its projects in Burma with President Thein Sein

Burma and Japan agree to start work next year on a huge industrial zone near Rangoon and Japan reaffirms its commitment to debt relief and financial ties with Burma


The United Kingdom criticizes the escalating conflict between the Burma Army and the KIA

US Ambassador Derek Mitchell plans to meet with Karen and Mon leaders about ceasefire negotiations in their states

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 2,000 people have fled from Arakan State and Bangladesh on boats run by smugglers


Myanmar Airstrikes Reopen Ethnic Wounds
By Bertil Lintner

2012 Roundup: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Business in Burma
By William Boot
The Irrawaddy

Will Myanmar’s War Refugees Be Forced Home Against Their Will?
By Patrick Winn
The Global Post

Latest from the Blog

A Year of Nascent Reforms to Build Upon
By Burma Partnership


Authorities reject the application of local residents for a peaceful protest outside the office of the China National Petroleum Corporation working on the Shwe Gas Project in Arakan State

More than 400 villagers from east of Tavoy hold prayer services for the Htee Ler Klay dam project to be stopped

More than 150 farmers from a village in Naypyidaw send a petition to the President and parliament after they were told to leave their homes within three days or face jail time

Kachin and their supporters protest outside the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok and in Toronto, Canada

Statements and Press Releases

Kachin Organization’s Statement on Thein Sein Government and Burmese Army Airstrike Attacks Against Kachin Civilians and KIO/KIA
By 11 Kachin Organizations

Open Letter to President Thein Sein
By 14 Kachin Organizations

AIPMC Calls on Thai Authorities to Grant UN Access to Rohingya Immigrants
By ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus

BURMA: Phyo Wai Aung, a Courageous Fighter Against Inhuman Abuse
By Asian Human Rights Commission

Burma: Investigate Death of Former Political Prisoner
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

BROUK Welcomes UNGA Resolution on Burma
By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

CSW Urges Burma’s Government to Stop Military Offensive Against Kachin Immediately
By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Thailand: Don’t Deport Rohingya “Boat People”
By Human Rights Watch

Burma: Drop Charges Against Peaceful Protesters
By Human Rights Watch

Follow-Up Open Letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
By Kachin Communities Worldwide

United Nationalities Federal Council Annual Meeting Statement
By United Nationalities Federal Council

International Community Must Act to End Atrocities by Thein Sein’s Government
By Women’s League of Burma

This post is in: Weekly Highlights