Hundreds gather to demand Myanmar army halt offensive

Despite national peace accord, military continues to battle powerful rebel group in country's north

Hundreds gather to demand Myanmar army halt offensive

World Bulletin / News Desk

Several hundred people gathered in Myanmar’s restive north Monday to demand the military stop a fresh offensive against a powerful rebel group in which at least one child has died and several civilians have been injured.

The rebel group -- the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) -- are one of the few groups not to sign up to a national peace accord, and control parts of Kachin State -- which borders China in the country's north -- and Shan State in the east.

The two-year-old was killed and two others were injured last week when heavy artillery hit a village controlled by the KIA in Shan's Mongkok Township

The military has also been accused of using helicopter gunships and fighter jets in an effort to root out the rebels near the border town of Laiza -- the KIA's Kachin headquarters -- after fighting erupted in the area last month.

Nanpu, a local resident who participated in the demonstration, told Anadolu Agency that protesters had pleaded with the army to stop the offensive in ethnic areas "immediately”.

“Our KIA leaders are in peace talks with government, and the military says it really wants peace,” Nan Pu said by phone.

“So why are the military attacking the KIA so heavily?”

A local police officer told Anadolu Agency that the protesters did not apply for permission for the demonstration, which took place in Kachin's capital Myitkyina.

“But we have no plan to take action against them,” he said on condition of anonymity. “We know their suffering and understand their feelings.”

The KIA is one of the most powerful rebel groups in Myanmar, in which armed conflict between the central government and ethnic armed organizations has taken place since it achieved independence from colonial masters Great Britain in 1948.

The former military government and the KIA enjoyed a 17-year cease-fire until 2011, when the army attacked the KIA's Laiza headquarters and nearby units. 

Since winning the 2015 election, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has made peace and national reconciliation a priority for her government, the first-elected civilian government in six decades.

The KIA, however, is yet to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) that many other groups agreed to in October last year, although it sent leaders to the Panglong (peace) Conference in late August in what it called "a show of goodwill".

Fighting has left more than 97,000 people displaced in 172 camps in Kachin and Shan, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Ekim 2016, 14:13