The Burmese government says it has used military jets to attack rebel fighters in northern Kachin state – its first admission of an intensification in the conflict that has raised doubts about the country’s reformist credentials.
Rebel sources have reported aerial bombings, shelling and even the use of chemical weapons since 28 December after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) ignored an ultimatum to stop blocking an army supply route. More than 50,000 people have been displaced in the state.
Official newspapers said that air support was used on 30 December to thwart KIA fighters who had occupied a hill and were attacking logistics units of the Tatmadaw, as Burma’s military is known.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, voiced concern on Wednesday, and called on Burma’s government to “desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians”.
President Thein Sein’s administration insists that it wants a ceasefire and political dialogue. It says troops have acted only in self-defence.