No break from armed hos­til­i­ties as peace con­fer­ence starts

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­

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.

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