Friday, January 20, 2012

Thein Sein's orders for Burma army to halt Kachin offensive are worthless

thein-seinBurma's armed forces continued today to attack positions held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin and northern Shan state, this despite claims from President Thein Sein's government that an order has again been re-issued commanding a halt to the army's Kachin offensive.

Fighting between government forces and the Kachin resistance was particularly fierce today in an area of northern Shan state slated to be the route of the Burma to China Shwe pipeline project. The KIA's Battalion 8 endured heavy shelling in three Shan townships that lie in the path of the pipeline, Namtu, Mandong and Kutkai according to sources on the ground. A key Battalion 8 base in Mandong stayed in KIA hands despite a strong push from government forces, which included a continuous three hour long bombardment using heavy mortars, KIA officials said.

Originally the twin oil and gas pipelines that will deliver fuel from Burma's Arakan coast to the Chinese city of Kunming were supposed to miss most of the KIA controlled territory, however in 2011 the official pipeline route in Shan state was shifted westward making a near 90 degree turn at Hsipaw where the pipeline route now heads north into KIA territory. Previously the pipeline was slated to continue east at Hsipaw and reach Lashio before heading north to Kunming, a route that would have passed through much less of the KIA's territory.

Peace talks reach without out agreement
While the fighting continues, discussions in China between the Burmese government officials and representatives of the KIA's political wing the Kachin Independence Organization ended today without a ceasefire being reached. A brief statement jointly issued by both negotiating teams said that both parties agreed to meet again for further talks however no date was given for when these talks would be held.

Thein Sein's "worthless" orders
During the past two months, on December 10 and again last week, Burma's retired General turned President Thein Sein has twice made public orders that the Burmese army cease its Kachin offensive.

The Burmese army however has continued to wage its aggressive campaign against the KIA and Kachin civilians.

French news service AFP quoted Burma's minister of immigration and population, Khin Yi that the latest order to halt hostilities "covers the whole country". Khin Yi, who previously served as national police chief claimed that the reason fighting was still taking place, is because the army was unintentionally coming into contact with the resistance. "Some of the grassroots level units, when on patrolling duty, unexpectedly met each other and exchanged fire. Sometimes, the order (not to attack) did not reach to the grassroots level," Khin Yi said AFP.

Khin Yi's claim that conflict is only happening sporadically because of unexpected encounters is in sharp contrast to reports from the frontlines. KIA officials and others with knowledge of the Burmese army say that the heavy artillery fired today in Shan state against the KIA are only used with permission from the army's central command. It’s abundantly clear that President Thein Sein's public directives that the offensive stop are effectively worthless statements issued to please the international community.

Burmese army buildup around KIO's Laiza headquarters continues
The Kachin News Group has also learned that on Tuesday, one day before peace talks were set to begin in China, the Burmese army moved troops, artillery shells and armored vehicles to an area within firing range of the KIO's Laiza headquarters. The equipment and troop reinforcements that arrived are now stationed in Ga Ra Yang village less than 30 miles from Laiza, according to eyewitnesses in the area.

On January 15, a convey of 25 trucks containing government troops arrived at a Burmese army base in Dawhpumyang sub-township on the Myitkyina-Manmaw road, about 10 miles from Laiza, said local military observers.

Reached for comment Lah Nan, the KIO's Deputy General Secretary No.2 based at the groups Laiza headquarters told the Kachin News Group that about 160 Burmese army battalions from around the country are either currently deployed in the Kachin campaign or are on their way to frontlines of Kachin and northern Shan state.


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