No break from armed hostilities as peace conference starts
AS the country’s attention focused on Nay Pyi Taw and preparations for the Union Peace Conference earlier this week, fighting continued between the Myanmar army and ethnic armed groups in Kachin and Shan states, according to a report released by the Free Burma Rangers on August 29.
“With the upcoming ‘21st-century Panglong Conference’ now days away, it is the hope of the Free Burma Rangers that the information detailed in this report will provide an adequate context from which negotiators on both sides can ascertain a more comprehensive and fruitful agreement which benefits lives on both sides,” the report said.
It said that “clashes and infantry assaults backed by mortar attacks are now a daily occurrence”, with civilians frequently caught in the crossfire.
“Burma Army soldiers backed by local militias, tanks and aircraft have continued to strike areas heavily populated by civilians in an attempt to root out ethnic forces,” the report said, adding that lack of transparency and accountability remain issues in conflict zones and have resulted in 14 recent cases of human rights abuses.
Lieutenant Colonel Naw Bu of the Kachin Independence Organisation confirmed that fighting continued between the Tatmadaw and the KIO right up to the eve of the peace conference.
“Today [August 31] there has been no news of fighting as yet, but yesterday there was fighting between the government and the KIO in the area of Tanai [in Kachin State],” he said.
On August 29, meanwhile, the Shan Herald news agency reported that the Tatmadaw had launched an offensive against the Shan State Progress Party/ Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) in northern Shan State’s Lashio district.
Also on August 29, 133 civil society organisations published a joint statement demanding that the army stop its offensives in ethnic areas, and that a ceasefire between the army and ethnic armed groups be officially announced at the opening of the peace conference.
“We have heard news about fighting in Kachin and northern Shan states,” said Ko Thwin Lin Aung, a member of the CSO Forum organising committee. “We asked for the fighting to stop and for a ceasefire to be announced on the first day of the Peace Conference.”
However, no such announcement was made during yesterday’s opening ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw.