UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for a “serious effort” to end the conflict raging in northern Myanmar, where ethnic minority Kachin rebels accused the military of breaking its ceasefire.
Myanmese President Thein Sein’s reformist government announced on Friday that it was ending a military offensive against the Kachin rebels, but fresh fighting erupted over the weekend.
Ban “calls upon both sides to make serious effort to create conditions for sustained peace in Kachin through enhanced confidence building measures and political dialogue”, the UN said in a statement released in New York on Sunday.
About a dozen peace activists meanwhile set off today on a planned 1,300-kilometre walk from Yangon to the rebel stronghold of Laiza to call for an end to the conflict.
Yan Naing Tun said he was spurred to make the long journey after learning of “the horrible effects of the war and the difficulties of the war victims”.
“Walking shows our sacrifice,” he said, adding that the group expected the trek to take nearly two months,” he said. “We’re worried about our security but it’s more important to stop the civil war and to get peace.”
The recent use of military air strikes against the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) triggered growing international concern, although there have been no reports of air raids since the government’s ceasefire vow.
Rebels said yesterday that the military was battling to retake control of a strategically important hilltop just several kilometres away from the KIA headquarters in Laiza, and was using artillery shells and ground forces.
The Kachin rebels have not announced any ceasefire of their own, saying any negotiations should also address their demands for greater political rights.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down.
Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government has reached tentative ceasefires with a number of ethnic rebel groups since taking power in early 2011, but several rounds of talks with the Kachin rebels have failed to reach a breakthrough.