Burmese troops attacked rebel positions in north-east Kachin yesterday despite a ceasefire order from the President and an invitation to the insurgents to take part in peace talks.
President Thein Sein issued the ceasefire order 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, a Thai-based spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said goverment forces had continued to attack over the weekend, both in La Ja Yang and elsewhere in the state. An offensive in La Ja Yang from about 8am yesterday involved artillery and infantry, he said. Burma's 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 President Thein Sein.
Addressing a development forum attended by donor countries and international aid organisations on Saturday, the President said he had invited the Kachin rebels to a "political dialogue" with rebels from other Burmese states.
Ten other major opposition groups from various parts of the country have already agreed to a ceasefire.
A source in Kachin, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the army attacks, including one on a rebel position about five miles from the KIA stronghold of Laiza. Fighter jets had flown over the area but had not attacked, he said.
Last week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the army of indiscriminately shelling the town of Laiza. Loud explosions were also heard by residents of the town of Mai Ja Yang who felt the vibrations, the source added.