By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
NAYPYIDAW, BURMA (BosNewsLife)– A rights group urged Burma’s military on Friday, December 28, to immediately halt a major “offensive” against the mainly Christian Kachin people in the north of the Asian nation.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) also asked the world “to put pressure on the government of Burma”, also known as Myanmar, “to engage in a meaningful political dialogue with the Kachin and other ethnic nationalities.”
CSW, which has investigated rights abuses, said four fighter planes and two helicopter gunships were used early Friday, December 28, to attack Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops close to their headquarters at Laiza, on the China-Burma border.
The aerial attack follows several days of reported shelling and what CSW called “a significant increase” in troop movement and fighting.
“To launch aerial attacks and deploy fighter jets and helicopter gunships marks the most serious intensification in this conflict since the war began,” said CSW’s Advocacy Andrew Johnston in a statement to BosNewsLife.
It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or wounded in the latest fighting.
The Burma Army has been conducting a military offensive against the Kachin since June 2011, breaking a ceasefire that had lasted for 17 years, according to Christian rights activists.
Over 100,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the war began, according to rights investigators, who blame the Burmese military of human rights violations, including rape, torture, destruction of villages, looting and desecration of churches, and killing civilians.
There was no official known reaction from Burmese officials to the latest allegations.
Thomson said Burma’s government must be urged to stop the offensive immediately “and engage in a genuine” peace process.
“The KIA, and its political arm, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), are seeking autonomy and equal rights in a federal, democratic Burma, not secession, and have made clear their desire to talk,” he stressed.
He said the Kachin want “a lasting solution to decades of war, not simply a ceasefire.”
Burmese President Thein Sein and his government have made clear they are open for talks with ethnic groups and reforms.
Yet, “How can reform be serious if it is accompanied by fighter jets and helicopter gunships?,” wondered Thomson.
He said the world must take “this latest escalation very seriously,” and make it clear to Thein Sein “that unless the Burma Army’s offensive stops and a peace process begins, international pressure will be applied.”
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