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Is Burma's Kachin maneuver anti-reform practice?

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Burma/Myanmar government armed forces have been maneuvering strategic warfare against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) this time seems to be a crucial military operation of seizing more tactical positions around the challenger.

There are fresh reports from Kachin battle-frontline across the Internet as well as social media and the on-line newspapers constantly. Besides, people throughout the country including non-governmental organizations feel shock that this battle will cause more humanitarian disaster following 100,000 people fled their homes for safety shelter in remote forest during 28-month old war. 

According to media reports, there are more than 30,000 IDPs in Burmese government controlled areas and over 60,000 IDPs are currently taking refuge in KIO controlled areas. Several hundreds of civilians continue escaping their native places because they are scared of bullets, bombs, forced labors, rape, torture and other forms of violence.

Since recent few months, the hostilities between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Government Army have reached a high point after a 17-year ceasefire accord broke down in June 2011 in Kachin sate. There were more than 2,000 battles occurred between government soldiers and the KIA since 9 June 2011.

According to Kachinland News (KLN), fighting continues between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army broke out on 17 September. KIA's 8th Battalion troops and allied TNLA troops as a joint force fought against a combined force of about 100 soldiers from Burmese army's 45th LIR and 145th LIR, Kawng Hka Pyi-Thu-Tsit (former KDA), Kut Kai Pyi-Thu-Tsit under U T. Hkun Myat, and Pan Se Pyi-Thu-Tsit under U Kyaw Myint at Nam Pang in northern Shan State on September 17 at 11:30 am. A KLN source says 5 soldiers from government's side died and no casualties on KIA/TNLA side in the battle.

Both U T. Hkun Myat and U Kyaw Myint (also known as U Win Maung or Li Yongqiang) are parliamentarians of the ruling party USDP. KIA troops fought militia led by another parliamentarian U Zahkung Ting Ying in eastern Kachin State last month. Government army is increasingly using ethnic militias in its fight against ethnic armies. Government soldiers have been carrying on war against the Kachin rebels without a break.

A series of skirmishes took place in Kachin and northern Shan State despite government officials claiming that fighting has been stopped between government troops and ethnic armies. Local sources reported that reinforcement of government troops and transportation of military supplies to frontline areas continues in the past weeks.

Most of the troop reinforcements along with military supplies were sent south of Putao town to Nhka Ga village in Ma-chyang-baw township, according to a well-informed local resident, Kachinland News said. The village was previously controlled by troops from the 1st Brigade under 7th Battalion of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) until late August when government troops captured the area.

As said by the Kachin News Group (KNG), government military recently used airlifts transporting troops and supplies at the Putao airport in northern Kachin state, referring local residents. The reinforcements in Putao come just weeks before government negotiators and representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) are supposed to meet early next month for peace talks.

Following two days of heavy fighting, Nhka Ga village was fallen in the hand of government soldiers on August 29th. The fighting began when troops from the government army's Infantry Battalion No. 137, supported by a local pro-government militia led by Ahdang Tang (or Danggu Tang), attacked KIA positions near the village.   Two government army officers were reportedly killed during the battle according to KIA sources, though only the loss of one officer was confirmed by government state media.

The head of the Putao Military Strategic Command is known to be very upset concerning the loss of his officers. Then, according to local residents, the government soldiers are planning a full scale attack on KIA Battalion 7 headquarters near Hting Nan village, located close to Nka Ga. All units based in Putao district, including Infantry Battalions No. 46, No. 137, No. 138 have dispatched troops to the Nhka Ga area, according to a source from the area who spoke to KNG on condition of anonymity.

Kachin armed forces received strict orders not to strike first, said one KIO official who spoke to the Kachin News Group (KNG) on condition of anonymity due to restrictions in place on speaking to the media. Despite the KIO's restraints, clashes occurred after government military units entered KIO controlled areas without word of warning, the anonymous official said.

During the latest three-day talks (28-30 May) in Myitkyina, the government peacemaking team and the KIO reached a seven-point preliminary agreement pledging both sides would take necessary steps towards reducing tensions and establishing a troop monitoring mechanism to prevent unnecessary clashes like these. Despite the goodwill gestures displayed in Myitkyina's peace talks and later reported to the media by U Aung Min, head of government peace negotiator, warfare hasn't been ceased. As a result, a proper end of hostilities still seems far from realization.

Sumlut Gam, leader of Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)'s peace talk delegation, criticized the government's continuous attacks on the KIO armed-wing KIA bases in the two regions in Kachin state, as well as KIA 4th brigade areas in northern Shan state.

The KIO is keeping its troops under control in accordance with the Myitkyina 7-point agreement reached in May, whereas the government forces breached the agreement by attacking KIA bases, Sumlut Gam added.

  Before the 1994 ceasefire agreement between the KIO and the government going into effect, there was only one government military unit - Infantry Battalion, No. 46 - based in the entire Putao district. After signing a ceasefire, two infantry battalions and an artillery battalion were dispatched to the area. They are backed by various pro-government militias.

Although some limited ceasefire deals are made between the rebel groups and the government, there has been little real progress on flawless peace. Some critics say, government army plays around as if there were disturbances going on all along the ethnic areas. By doing so, it makes excuse to strengthen military power. By reinforcing military muscle, the government armed forces are capable of amplifying its power and authority in an attempt to have power over the ethnic territories.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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