Thu 10 Jan 2013
Filed under: Guns,Inside Burma,Military,News
Burma has denied accusations that it had used chemical weapons against ethnic minority rebels in the northern state of Kachin, where an escalating conflict has overshadowed wider political reforms. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said “Our military never uses chemical weapons and we have no intention to use them at all. I think the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) is accusing us wrongly.”
The rebels say the army had stepped up its operations in recent days, allowing troops to take territory in a push towards the KIA stronghold of Laiza on the border with China.
KIA spokesman James Lum Dau told AFP “It is already three days (they have) used chemical weapons (and) they are able to occupy very important posts.”
He said the intense heat from exploding shells left soldiers consciousness.
AFP was not able to verify the claims, which follow the recent use of air strikes by the government against the rebels in the resource-rich area.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the conflict since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down.
The rebels made a similar accusation that the army had used chemical weapons in late 2011.
The Kachin clashes, along with communal unrest in the western state of Rakhine, have marred optimism about dramatic political changes since Burma’s widely praised emergence from decades of army rule in early 2011.
The United States and the UN have voiced concern over the air raids.
Burma’s quasi-civilian regime has reached tentative peace deals with other major ethnic rebel groups, but an agreement with the Kachin has proved elusive.
President Thein Sein, in December 2011 ordered an end to military offensives against the rebels and continued hostilities have led to doubts over his ability to control the powerful armed forces.
Meanwhile presidential spokesmanYe Htut reiterated government assertions that the army was only firing “in self-defence”.
“We always open the door for peace,” he said.