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US Ambassador leads fact-finding mission in Kachin

American diplomats led by US Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell met with Kachin state officials and civil society groups as the Burmese military intensifies their dry season offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The eight-member delegation met with Kachin peace mediators at a restaurant on 17 December in the state capital of Myitkyina where they discussed ongoing strife and displacement in the state, according to a local spokesperson San Aung.

“They inquired about the past events [in the conflict] and ways to provide assistance for IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in the camps,” said San Aung.

“The [Ambassador] said they are aware that there was a ceasefire with the Kachin in 1994 and he understood the solution didn’t work apparently as fighting breaking out again.”

The Kachin Independence Army has been fighting government troops since a 17-year ceasefire crumbled in 2011, which has displaced an estimated 100,000 residents.

While the KIA has held several rounds of unofficial talks with government officials, fighting continues as the armed group has placed a premium on addressing the political issues that have led to fighting between the military and ethnic rebels for decades.

The delegation is scheduled to visit IDP camps today and will also meet with former KIA vice-chairperson and current Kachin State Progressive Party chair Dr Tuja and National Democratic Force party’s members.

The ambassador’s trip comes as more refugees pour into camps near the KIA’s headquarters in Laiza.

La Rip of the Kachin War Refugees Assistance Committee said hundreds of residents in Dawhpumyang sub-township recently fled their homes for shelter in the wake of fighting between the KIA, along with their allies the All-Burma Students’ Democratic Front, and the Burmese military.

While Burmese officials have claimed government troops have been instructed to remain on the defensive, outside observers claim the use of embargoed rocket launchers and Russian-made helicopter gunships against the rebels serves as proof that the military is continuing to escalate their offensive against the KIA.


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