Mediators in Myanmar urge Suu Kyi help in Kachin war
AFPYANGON -- Mediators trying to broker a peace deal between the military and ethnic minority rebels in northern Myanmar on Saturday appealed to Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to help end the bloody conflict.
January 6, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The military's use of air strikes against the rebels has stoked international concerns about a civil war that has overshadowed widely praised political reforms seen since the end of junta rule in 2011.
“Aung San Suu Kyi also has responsibility to implement ethnic peace,” Yup Zaw Hkaung, a local businessman and peace negotiator in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina, told AFP by telephone.
“When she came to Kachin State to campaign for votes, she talked about peace. She cannot abandon Kachin,” he said, adding that neither the opposition leader nor President Thein Sein had replied to letters asking for help.
Civil war has plagued parts of the country formerly known as Burma since it won independence from Britain in 1948.
Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner turned lawmaker, used her maiden speech to parliament in July last year to call for greater protection of ethnic minority rights.
But the veteran activist has disappointed rights campaigners by not speaking out more vocally in support of another minority group, the Rohingya, in the violence-torn western state of Rakhine.
In northern Kachin, tens of thousands of people have been displaced since June 2011 when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) broke down.
The number of casualties is unknown. The Kachin accuse the government of pushing dialogue only on the basis of a ceasefire and troop withdrawals, neglecting to address longstanding demands for greater political rights.
Myanmar has reached tentative ceasefires with most of the other major ethnic rebel groups, but several rounds of talks with the Kachin have shown little tangible progress.
“The fighting has been escalating,” Yup Zaw Hkaung said.
“We are urging dialogue as soon as possible. People are in big trouble.”
He said his Peace Creation Group, a mediation team formed with three other local businessmen, wanted to meet Thein Sein face-to-face to discuss the conflict with the former general, whose office said in December 2011 he had ordered an end to military offensives against the rebels.
“As air strikes with jets have been used in the attacks, hatred between the two sides could be growing,” Yup Zaw Hkaung said. “We assume that the military is fighting based on the decision of the union government.”