Kachin rebels sceptical over Myanmar ceasefireAgence France-Presse . Naypyidaw
Kachin rebels cast doubt Saturday over a Myanmar government pledge to end a military offensive after weeks of intense fighting that sparked international concern, amid reports of fresh shelling.
The government move on Friday came after the country’s fledgling parliament called for a halt to the fighting, which has left dozens reported dead in northern Kachin state and marred optimism about the country’s political reforms.
The conflict between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has escalated in recent weeks with the use of air strikes by the military, prompting the United States and the United Nations to speak out.
A KIA official, requesting anonymity, said the military had gained ‘the upper hand’ by surrounding the rebel stronghold of Laiza and was therefore able to declare an end to the offensive from a position of strength.
But he cautioned that the rebels would ‘wait and see’ if military operations ceased.
The halt to the offensive was due to take effect from 6:00 am Saturday (2330 GMT Friday) but the political wing of the KIA said attacks had continued near Laiza, which borders China.
‘The Burmese... never keep promises,’ Thailand-based spokesman James Lum Dau said, adding ‘several minutes of shelling’ had taken place on Saturday near Laiza, the rebel’s base since the resumption of fighting in 2011.
A witness told the news agency that an uneasy peace prevailed in the city itself.
Some experts have questioned the level of control President Thein Sein, a former general, exerts over army units in Kachin after an order to end military offensives in December 2011 was apparently ignored.
Rights groups meanwhile have condemned the impact of military action on civilians — rebels said three people, including a teenager and an elderly man, died after army shells landed in Laiza on Monday.
‘We are particularly concerned about the way the Burmese have been fighting this war, including shelling Laiza,’ Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch Asia said, adding the unilateral ceasefire appeared to be ‘very limited’ in scope.
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