20 Jan Minister claims Kachin fighters intentionally damaged peace process

Written by Mizzima Published in Myanmar Read 1796 times
President’s spokesman and Information Minister U Ye Htut has voiced concern that the Kachin Independence Army is attempting to scupper the nationwide peace process. U Ye Htut answers questions from media at 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on August 8, 2014. Photo: Hein Htet/Mizzima
 President’s spokesman and Information Minister U Ye Htut has voiced concern that the Kachin Independence Army is attempting to scupper the nationwide peace process. U Ye Htut answers questions from media at 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on August 8, 2014. Photo: Hein Htet/Mizzima

President’s spokesman and Information Minister U Ye Htut claims the Kachin Independence Army intentionally disturbed the peace process by arresting three policemen escorting a Kachin State minister, and sparking fighting in Hpakant Township, while the government is making efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire.

The minister made the comment on his Facebook page on January 19 as local activists expressed alarm over civilians trapped by the fighting that began last week in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, a jade-rich area near the Chinese border.

U Ye Htut said in his Facebook page post: “I think they intentionally did it in order that fighting breaks out again to disturb the peace negotiations. As soon as the fighting began, they detonated mines in Hpakant and Lonekhin at the same time in order to attack police stations. So it would appear they made preparations in advance.”

The fighting broke out after the January 14 abduction by the KIA of three policemen who were escorting the Kachin State Minister for Transport.

The Kachin minister was held briefly and then released but the three policemen are still believed to be in custody.

U Ye Htut wrote on his Facebook page that President U Thein Sein has urged ethnic armed group leaders to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement on February 12, Union Day.

Fighting broke out January 15 between government forces and the KIA in Hpakant Township, leading to more than 1,000 residents being trapped in the villages. The government forces have not allowed civic organizations to evacuate the villagers.

The residents trapped in villages in the area face shortage of food, according to Ko Sar Gyi, an official with the Kachin Development Networking Group, who has made contact with some residents who are hiding out from the fighting.

Tensions in Kachin State, where a 17-year ceasefire between rebels and the government broke down in 2011, have overshadowed efforts to call an end to the multiple civil conflicts in Myanmar’s ethnic minority borderlands that have blighted the country for more than half a century.

Some 98,000 people have been forced from their homes by the fighting in Kachin State and the northern areas of neighbouring Shan state over the last few years, according to the United Nations, which has struggled to reach tens of thousands of those affected.

Several attempted bomb attacks on security forces and mining firms have been reported in recent days in the area, according to the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on January 19, although most were unsuccessful.

One official with the Kachin Development Networking Group said he believed the fighting was directly linked to the lucrative mining industry in the area.

Reaching a nationwide ceasefire deal with some 16 rebel groups is seen as a cornerstone of reforms in the former junta-run nation.

But while the government has pinned its hopes on reaching an agreement within weeks, the peace process continues to stumble on decades-old mistrust and ongoing fighting in Kachin State.

The control of plentiful resources is a major source of resentment in Myanmar’s ethnic minority border areas.

Additional reporting by AFP

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 12:05