YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s military acknowledged launching airstrikes against ethnic Kachin rebels in the north and said it captured a hilltop post from where the insurgents had attacked government supply convoys.
The statement broadcast on state television Wednesday contradicted government claims two days earlier that the military was not carrying out offensive air attacks on the Kachin, raising questions about how much control the elected government of reformist President Thein Sein has over the army.
The United States said Wednesday the use of air power in Kachin state was extremely troubling. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged the government and the Kachin rebel group to cease their conflict and begin a real dialogue for peace.
Myanmar state television, quoting the Defense Ministry, said the military on Sunday occupied a Kachin Independence Army hilltop post during a mopping-up operation of the area where attacks had been launched against supply convoys.
The government has been seeking to supply a base at Lajayang, very close to KIA headquarters at Laiza, the rebel group’s last major outpost.
The government delivered an ultimatum to the Kachin to clear a road by Christmas Day so it could supply its base. The Kachin rejected the ultimatum for fear of a government attack on their own outpost.
The Kachin, like Myanmar’s other ethnic minorities, have long sought greater autonomy from the central government.
They are the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a cease-fire agreement with Thein Sein’s government, which came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of military rule.