YANGON, Myanmar: The government and ethnic Kachin rebels blamed each other on Monday for an upsurge in fighting in northern Myanmar, with the government denying it carried out an air offensive on rebel-held territory.
President’s office director Maj. Zaw Htay said that helicopters and jets alleged by the Kachin to have carried out attacks in recent days were actually used mainly to supply government units whose access to supplies by road has been cut off by the Kachin Independence Army.
The government said the upsurge in fighting followed the Christmas Eve destruction of a power pylon by the rebels. It came as the government delivered an ultimatum to the Kachin to clear a road by Christmas Day so it could supply an army base.
However, the government base at Lajayang is very close to KIA headquarters at Laiza, which is the rebel group’s last major outpost. The Kachin rejected the ultimatum for fear of a government attack on their base. KIA spokesman La Nan said by email that the fighting was sparked by a government offensive against the rebels.
The Kachin, like Myanmar’s other ethnic minorities, have long sought greater autonomy from the central government. It is the only major ethnic rebel group not to reach a cease-fire agreement with the elected government of President Thein Sein, which came to power last year.