By SAI ZOM HSENG Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) met on Tuesday with a Burmese government delegation in the Chinese border town of Ruili, Yunnan Province, and demanded that the parties begin a political dialogue with the goal of reaching a political solution to the ongoing conflict in Kachin State.
The meeting was attended by high-ranking officials from both sides. The KIO delegation was led by its chairman, Lanyaw Zawng Hkra, and the government delegation was led by Aung Thaung and Thein Zaw, who were former military brass and ministers in the previous regime.
Lanyaw Zwang Hkra said in a statement released on Wednesday that he decided to personally attend the meeting because the issues to be discussed were clearer than they had previously been.
The statement also said that: “The political system is the root cause of the problems between the KIO and the government in Kachin and Shan states; the problems and the civil war must be solved by political means; and the KIO does not believe that peace can be achieved using military methods.”
The KIO signed a ceasefire with the Burmese military regime in 1994, becoming one of the first ethnic armed groups to agree to terms with the ex-junta. Clashes between the government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the KIO, erupted in June and soon spread to northern Shan State, where KIA Brigade 4 is based.
The KIA’s second-in-command, Brig-Gen Gun Maw, said that the KIO has highlighted the issue of a political dialogue and solution and the government delegation stated that a ceasefire is their main issue.
“We denounced the president’s remark that the government can ‘annihilate’ us ‘within a day,’” Gun Maw toldThe Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “The government said that they are near to signing ceasefire agreements with the other ethnic armed groups that they are currently talking with.”
Burma’s President Thein Sein said at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Bali that the government’s troops could annihilate the KIO/KIA within a day.
Recently, the KIA lost its camps controlled by KIA Battalion 27 in Man Si Township, Bahmo. According to Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military observer based on the China-Burma border, the KIA lost the camps because of the continuous artillery firing by the Burmese army.
“It seems that the government is using both means: one is to keep pressuring the KIA by military offensives and the other is at the discussion table,” Aung Kyaw Zaw told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “In this situation it is more important to establish a political solution than a ceasefire. It is a civil war. It has already made thousands of locals internally displaced persons (IDPs).”
Aung Kyaw Zaw also said that the government troops are using more than 100 infantry battalions and Divisions 88, 99 and 44, which are much bigger than the local battalions.
The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an independent organization that uses the integrity of medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations against individuals, issued a report titled “Under Siege in Kachin State, Burma,” about human rights violations in Kachin State.
The report stated that in September, PHR conducted an investigation in Burma’s Kachin State in response to reports of grave human rights violations in the region. PHR found that between June and September 2011, the Burmese army looted food from civilians, fired indiscriminately into villages, threatened villages with attacks, and used civilians as porters and human minesweepers.
The report said, “IDP camps are overcrowded and the numbers of latrines and water supply points are insufficient to ensure that residents human rights to clean food and water are met. Camp medical staff reported insufficient supplies of medicine for infants.”
The PHR also called for an immediate stop to all human rights violations and violations of the law of armed conflict, for the provision of aid to IDPs in all parts of Kachin state and for unimpeded access for the UN, INGOs and local NGOs to deliver food and medical assistance to IDPs in Kachin State.
According to the data of Wunpawng Ning Htoi, which means “Lights for the Kachin People,” 30,000 to 40,000 locals have fled their homes because of fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA.