Myanmar Rebels Call on U.N. to Monitor Conflict
Ethnic rebels in the far north of Myanmar have urged the United Nations to send observers to monitor fighting with government troops, a Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) official said Thursday.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, emailed to AFP, the KIO "implored" observers to visit the conflict zone where fighting has raged since a ceasefire collapsed last year.
The Kachin accuse Myanmar's military of targeting civilians as well as their fighters.
Speaking from Thailand, the KIO's deputy head of foreign affairs, Colonel James Lum Dau, confirmed the request for U.N. monitors.
"It's been 11 months (since fighting resumed) and we want U.N. observers to go to see the reality of what's happening there," he said. "We need someone without bias."
Fighting between the KIO's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the government military has raged since June, 2011, after 17 years of peace.
It has forced at least 50,000 people to flee their homes and heaped international pressure on the reformist government of President Thein Sein to end the conflict.
In recent weeks Kachin forces have said the army has massed around their stronghold of Laiza in preparation for a major assault, a claim denied by a government official contacted by AFP on Thursday.
"It was not true that the Myanmar side is targeting Laiza and has increased fighting there. We will not seize Laiza... we are negotiating to solve this politically," the official, who requested anonymity, said.
The letter to Ban, signed by KIO central committee chairman Zawng Hra, warned that it is now "crucial for the U.N. to intervene before the conflict becomes even wider and more complex" and called for observers to be sent to Kachin villages and refugee camps.
Ban visited Myanmar earlier this month and urged Thein Sein to end the violence.
Lum Dau stopped short of calling for a U.N. peacekeeping force in the area saying they "would be unwise at this time".
Myanmar's nominally-civilian government has begun a series of negotiations with many of the nation's ethnic minority groups, agreeing ceasefires with several of them, but it has failed to reach a deal with the Kachin.
A Kachin businessmen Yap Zaw Hkaung, who is also a peace negotiator, told AFP from Myitkyina town in Kachin State that fighting is almost daily.
"It's hard to say which side started the fighting," he said. "We (peace negotiators) have asked both sides to stop fighting here for the sake of the people."