Myanmar says jets used against Kachin rebels

Thu Jan 3, 2013 6:20am EST
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By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military has used jets to attacks rebel fighters in northern Kachin state, the government said on Thursday, its first admission of an intensification of a conflict that has raised doubts about its reformist credentials.

Rebel sources have reported aerial bombings, shelling and even the use of chemical weapons since December 28 after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) ignored an ultimatum to stop blocking an army supply route in the hilly, resource-rich state where more than 50,000 people have been displaced.

Official newspapers said that air support was used on December 30 to thwart KIA fighters who had occupied a hill and were attacking logistics units of the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar's military is known.

"The Tatmadaw troops cleared Point-771 hill and its surrounding areas where the KIA troops were attacking the Tatmadaw logistic troops," the New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece, said. "The air cover was used in the attack."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern on Wednesday over reports of helicopters and fighter jets being used in the state bordering China. The KIA said the attacks were intended to clear the path for an assault on its headquarters in Laisa.

Ban called on Myanmar's government to "desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians" and reiterated demands for humanitarian aid groups to be granted access, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

President Thein Sein's quasi-civilian administration insists it wants a ceasefire and political dialogue. It says troops have acted only in self-defense and on Thursday denied having plans to seize the KIA's stronghold.


Smoke is seen rising from a mountain in Kachin state in this still image taken from a video dated December 27, 2012. REUTERS/Courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma/Handout