Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday said she would not step in help end the conflict between the Burmese army and ethnic Kachin rebels without government approval.
“It is up to the government,” Suu Kyi told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Suu Kyi said she would require an official invitation to join peace negotiations aimed at quelling the worsening civil war which has stoked great international concerns.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s comments came as the conflict escalates in Burma’s northernmost state, and just days after government forces launched air strikes against front line positions of the Kachin Independence Army (KIO).
The Kachins, like most other ethnic minorities in Burma, have long fought for greater autonomy in Burma. However, as we enter 2013, the KIA—or more correctly, its political wing the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)—is the sole remaining major armed force yet to sign a truce with Thein Sein’s government.
Since fighting reignited in June 2011 after a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down, some 75,000 are reported to have been displaced.
The conflict intensified in December when Burmese forces employed fighter planes and helicopter gunships to mount attacks close to Laiza, a northern city that serves as the Kachin rebels’ headquarters.
Burma’s President Thein Sein claims the Burmese army has been ordered only to fight in self-defense, and said that the government “does not want to pass on the conflict to the next generation.”
The Chinese government made a formal complaint to Burma on Saturday after three bombs fell in Chinese territory during an airstrike. Beijing urged Naypyitaw to restore stability to the shared border region where more than 10,000 mostly Kachin refugees have poured into the Chinese border town of Ruili to seek shelter.
The United States said last Wednesday that the use of air power in Kachin State was “extremely troubling.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the Burmese authorities to “desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians living in the area or further intensify the conflict in the region.”
Mediators in Burma are currently trying to broker a peace deal between the Burmese military and the Kachin rebels, and have appealed to pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi to help end the bloody conflict.
“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.
“When she came to Kachin State to campaign for votes, she talked about peace. She cannot abandon Kachin,” he said.
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