Burma Confirms Airstrikes on Kachin Rebels
Image Credit: Flickr (anevillemorgan)

Burma Confirms Airstrikes on Kachin Rebels


There’s nothing quite as disconcerting as a military operation launched over Christmas. Of the more notable examples in recent history is the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and Vietnam’s incursion into Cambodia which resulted in the ousting of the Khmer Rouge.

Both invasions took place in the late 1970’s when much of the world were sitting down for Christmas dinner or gearing-up for New Year celebrations and were timed to minimize criticism from the West.

It’s a strategic approach and one that the Burmese must have considered when ordering air strikes against Kachin rebels in the northeastern part of the country near its border with China.

It seems at odds with President Thein Sein who has been winning accolades for the political reforms he has instigated over the past year-and –a-half. He has been nominated for a series of awards and some have even suggested that his efforts might warrant a Nobel Peace Prize.

Such suggestions are misplaced. Burma remains a place of brutal oppression and internal strife. Jet fighters, helicopter guns ships and heavy artillery bombarded positions held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and reports say that thousands have fled their homes for shelter in nearby forests. Reports suggest most are not seeking to take shelter across the border in China after the government in Beijing forcibly repatriated around 10,000 refugees last summer, according to non-governmental organizations.

The heaviest fighting is reported to be occurring near the KIA’s headquarters in Laiza. It also remains unclear exactly who was responsible for launching the Christmas strikes, raising doubts over whether Thein Sein and his government have control over the generals.

Thein Sein’s government initially denied that the Burmese military had launched offensive airstrikes on the KIA stronghold. On Wednesday, however, the state-run media ran a government statement that confirmed the airstrikes and defended them as a response to KIA attacks on the military’s supply lines.

Burma is beset by internal strife and while the world, in particular the West, has welcomed the political and economic reforms designed to open up the country, much depends on Thein Sein’s ability to resolve ethnic tensions, which in recent months have focused on the violent unrest between Burmese Muslims and Buddhists.

Attempts elsewhere to strike ceasefires with about a dozen different warring groups who occupy the country’s perimeter and border regions have had mixed success.

A 17-year ceasefire between the government and KIA broke down in June 2011, and hostilities have resumed since then. Kachin state is rich in natural resources including timber and jade and has enormous hydropower potential.

Rebels are demanding greater autonomy from the central government including more control over the land’s valuable resources.

The government and military are undoubtedly frustrated by their inability to find a resolution to the conflict with the KIA. But the level of military firepower used and in such a suspicious manner is hardly worthy of peace prizes or humanitarian awards, and is likely to lead to an escalation in the conflict during the upcoming year.

January 4, 2013 at 09:05

Because China is a Greedy Shady Bully!
The KIA bosses use to play golf in Laiza with the local "chieftains" of Yunnan and UWSA 9the Wa Army) is a PLA proxy! Almost every problem in Burma during the last 60 years has to do with China, You can even go back to the KMT.

John Chan
January 3, 2013 at 12:12

Before Burma becoming the darling of the West, there was a 17-years peace between Burma central government and the KIA, why is the peace suddenly broken after the visits of all the Western leaders? Particularly all those western leaders are leaders of the nations that have been bombing and killing all over the world.

John Chan
January 3, 2013 at 12:00

The leader of the world biggest predatory imperialist can be awarded Nobel Peace Prize while its bombing and killing were going on simply because of his skin color not because he has made any contribution to peace; based on such criteria there is no reason why Thein Sein shouldn’t be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, at least he did not bomb and kill anybody outside of his country; perhaps Thein Sein will not be given the Nobel Peace Prize because his bombing and killing is such micky mouse scale comparing to the shock and awe the world biggest predatory imperialist has staged.

Shady Sands
January 3, 2013 at 11:23

I thought the Burmese were our friends now?  Why does this have anything to do with China?

January 3, 2013 at 04:05

Big Brother China said to the Burmese Army that it's OK to "weaken" the KIA. Big Brother ("paukphaw" in Burmese) decided to use a different tactic to get better access to the rivers (fo their dams), to the forests (for indiscriminate logging),  to their mining operations (jade, copper, rare earth, titanium, you name it), to their gas/oil pipeline etc. in Burma by abondoning (for now at least) the KIA (who they used to support) and letting the Bumese Army attack Laiza (the KIA headquarters which straddles the border).
Pretty straight-forward Sun-Tzu stuff actually (from the Chinese point of view!)

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