A series of attacks in conflict-hit northern Burma left at least four officials dead, state media said Sunday, in rare acknowledgement of ethnic unrest that has marred the regime’s reformist image.
Rebels were said to have launched a deadly assault on a government office in Waingmaw Township, Kachin State, where heavy fighting has raged for a year despite the new quasi-civilian government’s insistence that it wants to reach peace deals with the country’s various armed rebel groups.
“So, measures should be taken to avoid another incident… Such a terrorist attack is totally unacceptable in the time of peace efforts,” said a report in the state mouthpiece New Light of Burma.
It said three other officials were missing following the attack.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by clashes between government troops and guerrillas with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which controls swathes of the state, since a 17–year ceasefire was shattered last year.
Conflict re-erupted in June as anger grew over a clutch of Chinese-backed hydropower projects in the region and fighting has raged since then.
State media on Sunday also reported a separate incident involving heavy weapons fire in another area, where 200 KIA fighters were said to have captured vehicles belonging to a Burma construction giant linked to a Chinese company working at one of the dam sites.
The army was “in hot pursuit”, the report added.
Civil war has gripped parts of Burma since independence in 1948. An end to the conflicts and alleged rights abuses involving government troops is a key demand of the international community.
Media coverage of the unrest comes amid several high-level visits to Burma, including UN leader Ban Ki–moon and top European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton.
Ashton, whose trip follows the recent suspension of EU sanctions against the long-isolated country to reward political changes, on Saturday said “the killing has to stop”, adding that she would quiz President Thein Sein on the issue during her stay in the country.
While the government has signed peace deals with other insurgent groups, several rounds of talks with the political wing of the Kachin rebels have failed to bear fruit.
Official media seldom discusses the fighting.
The KIA used to be one of the most powerful armed rebel groups, but signed a ceasefire with the junta in 1994. Today their guerrilla army is thought to be at least several thousand strong.
The predominantly Baptist and Catholic Kachin account for about seven percent of Burma’s population and live in the remote far north near China.