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YANGON: Myanmar’s president said yesterday he wanted peace talks with all ethnic rebel groups in the country, but government troops again attacked rebel positions in Kachin State in the northeast despite his order to cease fire, rebels and a local source said.
President Thein Sein had issued the ceasefire order on Friday to troops in the La Ja Yang area of Kachin State near the border with China, where fighting has been fiercest.
It was due to take effect on Saturday morning, but Colonel James Lum Dau, Thai-based spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said the army had continued to attack over the weekend, both in La Ja Yang and elsewhere in the state.
Thein Sein denied that the army, known as the Tamadaw, aimed to capture Laiza, where the KIA and its political arm, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), have their headquarters.
“Now the Tamadaw members are an arm’s length from the KIA/KIO headquarters in Laiza but I have ordered them not to occupy Laiza,” he said at a meeting with non-governmental groups in Yangon, the commercial capital.
“In order to gain sustainable peace all over the country, there is no other way but to hold talks at the negotiating table as soon as possible,” he added.
A 17-year ceasefire with the KIA broke down in June 2011 and fighting has been particularly intense in recent weeks.
Twenty months of fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people and, for some analysts, raised doubts about the sincerity of all the political and economic reforms pursued by Thein Sein in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
On Saturday, addressing a development forum attended by donor countries and international aid organisations, Thein Sein had invited the Kachin rebels to a “political dialogue” with the government and ethnic rebel groups from other states. No date was given.
Ten other major rebel groups have already agreed ceasefires.
Lum Dau said an offensive in La Ja Yang from about 8am yesterday morning (0130 GMT) had involved artillery and infantry.
A local source in Kachin, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the army attacks on Sunday, including one on a rebel position about eight kilometres from Laiza. Fighter jets had flown over the area but had not attacked, the source said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch last week accused the army of indiscriminately shelling Laiza.