COUNTRY AT WAR
Conflicts continue as election winner Aung San Suu Kyi sits down in Parliament
The audacity of President Thein Sein’s government is hard to take in. On the one hand, their talk is of peace and bringing an end to half a century of conflicts pitting government forces against armed ethnic groups. On the other hand, helicopter gunships and attack aircraft prowl the skies over areas of Shan and Kachin states, bombing, rocketing and shooting at armed ethnic groups, while ground troops engage in fighting, driving literally thousands of civilians to flee in panic.
Crowds may cheer Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory, the victor waiting to be handed power, yet Myanmar remains a country deeply divided, a country at war with itself, with fingers pointed by the various players as to who is responsible.
Military Commander in Chief Min Aung Hliang has called on Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy to be patient as the current Thein Sein government goes through the process of handing over power.
But as he does so, his forces are bombing and strafing “enemy positions” in bitter fighting that hints at maintaining a split between Myanmar’s heartland and military occupied areas, as one ethnic group commentator put it.
The fighting is particularly galling for those in the Shan and Kachin states who voted for change, only to find themselves driven from their homes by fighting.
Thousands of people have been displaced in the past month by ongoing clashes between the Shan State Army-North and government forces, with the Myanmar military launching air strikes targeting ethnic insurgents.
“We didn’t dare stay as helicopters kept coming to attack,” said a 41-year-old teacher, who escaped the area with 15 other people in her car.
“People were so frightened,” she said at a monastery in Lecha town - some 100 kilometres from the fighting.
The army confirmed there was ongoing fighting in Kachin and Shan states, areas of the country that have been plagued by armed ethnic conflicts for the some 70 years since what was then Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948.
Last month, President Thein Sein’s government inked ceasefires with a clutch of ethnic armed groups,
Tracking the Transition