By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NAYPYITAW, BURMA (BosNewsLife)– Burma’s government admitted Thursday, January 3, that the military is involved in airstrikes against the mainly Christian Kachin, a week after BosNewsLife and other media carried reports about a massive offensive in the north of the country.
In statements, the government insisted that the attacks were aimed at the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has been fighting for more autonomy and rights for the troubled Kachin minority.
Authorities said the airstrikes were launched after the KIA ignored an ultimatum to stop blocking an army supply route in the hilly, resource-rich Kachin State, where more than 50,000 people have been displaced.
KIA spokesman La Nan confirmed that his fighters halted supplies for government troops, including ammunition and rice. “We will obstruct any army convoy that carries arms and ammunition that will be used against us,” he said in published remarks. “This is the nature of war.”
Official media said air support was especially used last week to target KIA fighters who had occupied a hill and were attacking logistics units of the Tatmadaw, as Burma’s military is known.
“The Tatmadaw troops cleared Point-771 hill and its surrounding areas where the KIA troops were attacking the Tatmadaw logistic troops,” the New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece, said. “The air cover was used in the attack.”
The statements, which were also aired on state television, contradicted previous government claims that troops were not attacking the Kachin, raising questions as to how much control the elected administration of reformist President Thein Sein has over the army.
Religious rights investigators told BosNewsLife last week already that the Burma Army has been involved the most serious intensification in the conflict since the war began.
Christians said four fighter planes and two helicopter gunships were used December 28, to attack KIA troops close to their headquarters at Laiza, on the China-Burma border.
Over 100,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the war began 17 years ago, 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.
KACHIN REBELS REACT
On Thursday, January 3, Kachin ethnic rebels in northern Burma, also known as Myanmar, said fighting continued but that they still held key positions around their main base.
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.
The United States said Wednesday, January 2, the use of air power in Kachin State was “extremely troubling.” In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged the government and the Kachin rebel group to cease their conflict and begin a real dialogue for peace.
Those comments were reflected by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who urged Burma’s authorities “to desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians living in the area or further intensify the conflict in the region”. He also demanded that the rebels work toward political reconciliation.
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