Govt uses ceasefire as tactic to deflect international concerns

Two of Burma’s most significant opposition alliances have united to condemn the government’s escalation of the Kachin conflict and criticize the ceasefire it announced on Saturday.

The United Nationalities Federal Council and The National Council of the Union of Burma have released statements condemning President U Thein Sien’s government’s war in Kachin State as a step backward in achieving peace and democracy in Burma.

The UNFC said that the government’s announced ceasefire was a tactic to deflect international criticism and that the government’s military continues its attacks unabated.

“The unilateral ceasefire by the Tatmadaw [Burma Army] is only for the Lajayan area, a small township on the China-Burma Border. According to reliable information, in other areas of Kachin State, three clashes took place on January 19, the day on which the ceasefire was supposed to start.”

The UNFC said that the Burma government’s announcement that the Kachin war was an act of self defence could not be taken seriously “when it deploys more than 120 army battalions, jet fighters, helicopter gunships and heavy artilleries against the KIO/KIA…20 battalions, a few mortars and some militia troops,” the UNFC said.

“There is no doubt that the Tatmadaw has been waging a total war against the KIO/KIA and the people of Kachin State,” the statement said.

The UNFC said that while Burma’s government claims the war was taken in self-defence, it is actually the Kachin who are defending their right to political freedoms.

“The Tatmadaw advanced positions in the KIO/KIA areas, war crimes and all acts of war are not conducive to peaceful resolution of political problems by political means. Like those of the other ethnic nationalities, the Kachin people’s movement for freedom, equality and self-determination are legitimate and their armed resistance is justified,” the UNFC said.

The NCUB doubts the Burma Army’s intentions to honor any ceasefire agreement.

“Though the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) would like to welcome the Government of Burma’s announcement to end military offensives against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), it cannot do so for the reason that the unilateral ceasefire announced by it is only for the Lajayan area,” the NCUB said in an official statement on the 20th of January.

“The Government’s offensives against the KIA and human rights violations by its troops in other areas of Kachin State are continuing as before,” the group stated.

The NCUB said that the ceasefire announcement was a government tactic to deflect international criticism of its ongoing offensive in Kachin State.

The UNFC and NCUB statements are a response the rapid escalation of the Kachin conflict in recent weeks with the Burma Army using helicopter gunships, fighter jets and heavy artillery to bombard KIA ground positions.

Human rights groups estimate that there are approximately 90,000 displaced people in Kachin State, with an estimated 60,000 residing in sizable camps in KIA-controlled territory along the border with China’s Yunnan province.

The NCUB said that as long as Burma’s ethnic minorities are denied an equal share in the country’s political system, ethnic conflict will continue.

“The association of ethnic nationalities remains unlawful, due to Section 17(1) of the Unlawful Association Act 1908. Unless a political solution to Burma’s ethnic conflicts is reached, any progress towards national reconciliation will be undone. Burma’s transition to peace and democracy may never be achieved,” they said.

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