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United Nations Special Human Rights Rapporteur Tomas Quintna was forced to cancel a trip to the Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) headquarters in Laiza after regional authorities refused to provide the envoy with permission to visit the rebel stronghold.
According to the UN spokesperson Aye Win, representatives from the regional government failed to provide clear reasons why the envoy’s request to visit Laiza was rejected.
However, Lamai Gum Ja of the Kachin State Peace Creation Group based in Myitkyina said the rapporteur was not allowed to travel to Laiza on security grounds and because the envoy did not receive the union government’s permission.
“[Quintana] was very keen to travel to Laiza as he couldn’t go there during his last visit – upon arriving to Myitkyina, he approached the regional government for permission which they denied on security grounds,” said Lamai Gum Ja.
“Then he asked the Kachin State Peace Creation Group to take him to Laiza. We would do it if he has an agreement with the government for that, but since it wasn’t the case, he had to cancel the plan.”
The KIA have been engaged in two years of bitter fighting with the Burmese military since their 17-year ceasefire with the government collapsed in 2011. More than 100,000 people have been displaced since the conflict kicked off in Burma’s far north.
In December, the government launched a massive dry season offensive against the rebel stronghold. During the assault, the Burmese military relied on airstrikes, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery to dislodge the rebels in what was one of the largest offensives launched against ethnic rebels by the government.
While the offensive allowed the Burmese military to capture several key outposts overlooking Laiza, the prolonged assault made international headlines and cast a dark cloud over the country’s reformist government.
With increased pressure coming from western capitals and China, Naypyidaw entered into a new round of talks with the rebel group that has largely put an end to fighting. However, the KIA has refused to sign a new ceasefire with the government until they are granted great political rights.
While Quintana was unable to reach Lazia, the UN envoy did manage to meet with the KIA’s liaison team in Myitkyina, according to Lamai Gum Ja.
The rapporteur arrived in Rangoon on Thursday and was set to visit the infamous Insein Prison.
The UN envoy arrived in Burma on 11 August for a 10-day visit, which includes trips to Arakan, Kachin, Shan and Chin states.