Kachin Rebels Say Burmese Fighting Likely to Spread

Posted June 14th, 2011 at 3:50 am (UTC-5)
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Leaders of an ethnic-based army in Burma are warning of a wider war unless government troops immediately halt an offensive against bases of the Kachin Independence Army.

Reports Tuesday quoted KIA officials saying the rebel movement had “lost patience” and ordered its forces to resist unless the government pulled back by midnight Monday. The group also warned the fighting was likely to spread into northern Shan state and other parts of the country.

Several people have been reported killed and wounded in the fighting, which began late last week and has sent hundreds of residents fleeing toward the Chinese border. VOA's Burmese Service reports the rebels have lost three of their camps and government forces are closing in on other rebel positions.

The Thailand-based Kachin News Group quotes KIA officials saying the government is trying to push the rebels away from an area on the Taping River where a Chinese corporation is building two hydroelectric dams. The officials say one plant has been providing electricity to China and Burma since February.

The Kachin Independence Army, like several other ethnic militias in Burma, signed a cease-fire agreement with the central government several years ago. But those agreements began to break down in 2009, when Burma demanded that the militia groups come under central authority and serve as part of a national border guard. That prompted some militias to resume fighting.

It is almost impossible for outsiders to confirm reports about the fighting. The border areas are largely off limits to foreigners and journalists.

Last year Burma held its first election in 20 years, in what the former ruling military council called a step toward full civilian control. However, rights activists and several governments, including the United States, say the election was flawed and solidified military rule.

A number of countries have imposed sanctions on Burma's government because of its human rights record and lack of progress in political reforms.