Kachin rebels cast doubt on pledge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 2:54am


Kachin rebels cast doubt yesterday over a Myanmar government pledge to end a military offensive after weeks of intense fighting that sparked global concern, amid reports of fresh shelling.

The government move on Friday came after the country's fledgling parliament called for a halt to the fighting, which has left dozens reported dead in northern Kachin state and marred optimism about political reforms.

The conflict between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has escalated in recent weeks with the use of air strikes by the military, prompting the US and the United Nations to speak out.

A KIA official said the military had gained "the upper hand" by surrounding the rebel stronghold of Laiza and was able to declare an end to the offensive.

He cautioned that the rebels would "wait and see" if military operations ceased.

The halt to the offensive was due to take effect from 6am yesterday, but the political wing of the KIA said attacks continued near Laiza, which borders China.

"The Burmese … never keep promises," Thailand-based spokesman James Lum Dau said, adding that "several minutes of shelling" had taken place yesterday near Laiza, the rebel's base since fighting resumed in 2011.

Some experts have questioned the level of control President Thein Sein, a former general, exerts over army units in Kachin after an order to end military offensives in December 2011 was apparently ignored.

Rights groups, meanwhile, have condemned the impact of military action on civilians. Rebels said three people, including a teenager and an elderly man, died after army shells landed in Laiza on Monday.

"We are concerned about the way the Burmese have been fighting this war, including shelling Laiza," Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch Asia said.