Myanmar’s army chief said peace in the war-ravaged nation is in the hands of ethnic rebels, in an interview broadcast January 19, as a fresh surge in unrest in northern Kachin state casts doubt over ceasefire efforts.
20 January 2015 | Written by AFP | Published in Myanmar
YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s army chief said peace in the war-ravaged nation is in the hands of ethnic rebels, in an interview broadcast January 19, as a fresh surge in unrest in northern Kachin state casts doubt over ceasefire efforts.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said peace was the “only path” if the country is to continue its democratisation and development, in a rare interview with Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia.
“Do they really want peace? If they really want peace, there is no reason that they cannot have it,” he said, referring to the country’s many ethnic minority armed groups who have fought for greater autonomy for decades.
“We cannot keep disagreeing. Disagreeing hinders the country’s development,” added the army chief, whose troops have engaged in sporadic heavy fighting with rebels from the Kachin Independence Army, despite ongoing efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire.
Tensions in Kachin, where a 17-year ceasefire between rebels and the government splintered in 2011, have overshadowed efforts to call an end to the multiple civil wars in Myanmar’s ethnic minority borderlands that have blighted the country for more than half a century.
Reaching a nationwide ceasefire deal with some 16 rebel groups is seen as a cornerstone of reforms by Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government, which replaced outright junta rule in 2011.
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 the Kachin conflict.
Activists say hundreds of people have been caught up in clashes since last week around Kachin’sHpakanttownship, a jade-rich area near the border with China, which officials have blamed on the KIA.
“There are so many reasons to believe that elements within the KIA who do not want peace have intentionally tried to disturb the nationwide ceasefire accord process,” Information Minister Ye Htut said in a post on his Facebook page.
The latest unrest was sparked on January 15 following the brief abduction of the Kachin state transport minister, who was later released, and three policemen believed still to be held.
TsaJi, director of Kachin Development Networking Group, told AFP that schools were closed and fear had spread through the area.
“The villagers want to get out. They are afraid just seeing (Myanmar) soldiers in uniform. There is no safety for women,” he said, referring to long-standing claims of serious human rights abuses by Myanmar’s armed forces.
He said he believed the fighting in the area was directly linked to the lucrative mining industry.
by Nan Tin HTWE
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