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UN Warns Burma on Airstrikes in Kachin

by VOA News January 02, 2013

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on Burmese authorities to refrain from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians or promote further conflict in Kachin state.

Ban's appeal came Wednesday, just hours after the Burmese government confirmed carrying out airstrikes this week against ethnic rebels in the troubled northern jurisdiction near the Chinese border.

A U.N. statement said ongoing hostilities between government forces and rebel fighters from the Kachin Independence Organization have already caused a 'large displacement of civilians who continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance.' Ban said it is 'vital' that timely access be guaranteed for the delivery of aid to vulnerable communities.

Earlier Wednesday, a government spokesperson acknowledged that 'training jets' were used in attacks on rebel positions in fighting that began last week. Other officials had at first denied carrying out the strikes.

Each side has blamed the other for the escalation in violence.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin since June 2011, when fighting broke out between the army and rebels, ending a 17-year cease-fire.

Ethnic groups in the northern part of the country have long accused the government of systematic repression, and have been fighting for greater autonomy in their traditional states.

The Kachin rebel organization is the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a cease-fire agreement with the government of President Thein Sein. The president, elected in 2011, has enacted a series of reforms since coming to power.

Western analysts, however, have warned the renewed fighting in Kachin state and ongoing sectarian violence in western Rakhine state threaten to undermine political reform initiatives elsewhere in the country.

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