Two of Burma’s major armed ethnic groups have rejected accusations made recently by the government that they are targeting civilians during their battles with the Burmese army.
The front page of the state-run New Light of Myanmar carried a story on Saturday last week claiming that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) “exploits … local people as refugees” and was lobbying the international community to provide assistance in its ongoing conflict.
Further down it accused the Shan State Army (SSA) of “repeatedly commit[ing]
destructive acts such as firing into schools and houses … and killing innocent people”. Such acts, the paper continued, warranted attacks by Burmese troops on SSA bases.
But in separate statements released this week both groups accuse the government, which made the remarks during a press conference late last week, of intentionally defaming them as part of its own propaganda campaign.
The SSA claimed it has “no policy of using terror on the innocent people”, and said the multiple conflicts in Burma’s volatile border regions stemmed from the “chauvinistic” nature of the government and its refusal to create a federal union in Burma, which underlies much of the grievances of Burma’s myriad ethnic minority groups.
The KIA had similar complaints, and claimed that rather than being used to discuss government policy, the press conference instead became a volley of accusations against armed opposition groups.
“We have found that the new government, while neglecting the civil war that has been on-going for so many years and ethnic issues, does not have a wish to solve issues regarding citizens’ right, citizens’ human rights and ethnic issues via political means,” it added.
Fighting between the Burmese army and KIA began on 9 June, and followed the latter’s refusal to transform into a government-controlled Border Guard Force. The outbreak marked the end of a ceasefire that had remained intact since 1994.
The SSA’s northern faction, which had also signed a ceasefire with the government, similarly refused the transformation, prompting the first outbreak of fighting between the two forces in March this year.
Both regions have since seen civilians flee en masse to the Chinese border or safer enclaves. The SSA has repeatedly denied accusations that it has attacked civilians, whilst accusing the Burmese military of deploying airstrikes in the mountainous Shan region. The government has not commented on the allegations.