Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Myanmar Calls for a Cease-Fire ; Kachin Rebels Were Losing Ground, but Country Was Seen to Be Backsliding

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Myanmar Calls for a Cease-Fire ; Kachin Rebels Were Losing Ground, but Country Was Seen to Be Backsliding

Article excerpt

The Myanmar military had intensified its campaign against Kachin rebels since the end of December, The rebels had been losing territory almost daily.

After weeks of intense fighting near the border with China, the Myanmar government on Friday announced what appeared to be a unilateral cease-fire in their offensive against ethnic Kachin rebels. The government also said it would pursue peace talks.

The announcement, which was made on state television during the main evening newscast, came only hours after the Myanmar Parliament unanimously approved a resolution calling for an end to the 18 months of fighting.

The Myanmar military has intensified its campaign against Kachin rebels since the end of December, and witnesses described frequent shelling in and around Laiza, the rebel base. The rebels had been losing territory almost daily.

Many questions remain about the cease-fire, including whether the military will comply with the order. President Thein Sein has called several times for an end to the army's offensive.

It was also unclear what the reaction of the Kachin rebels would be. One leading Kachin voice, the Rev. Samson Hkalam, the general secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention, said by telephone that he was skeptical of the announcement.

"According to our experience the declarations by the government are one thing. What the army does is another," he said.

He also said the cease-fire was very limited in its scope. "There are many areas that Myanmar troops occupy," he said. "The cease- fire applies to only one area."

According to the announcement, the cease-fire, which is to come into force Saturday morning, applies to the area around the town of Lajayang, the site of all of the major fighting. It is unclear what that means for the rest of Kachin State, where the rebels control numerous pockets of territory.

The statement said the military had "concluded its conditional mission" in the Lajayang offensive and had secured the "safety of troops. …

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