Bangkok: Myanmar's Army is poised for a major assault on Kachin minority rebels, the guerrilla group said on Thursday, despite calls for an end to the violence which has cast a shadow on the new regime's reforms.
Around 2,000 government forces have moved into place around the northern town of Laiza -- a key rebel stronghold, an official for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), told a news agency requesting anonymity.
The apparent troop build-up follows calls by UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday for an end to fighting, which has forced thousands to flee into neighbouring China.
"They are preparing to attack the KIA base in Laiza... they have reinforced a lot of troops and sent a lot of artillery but have not attacked yet," the official said, claiming rebel forces number around 3,000.
The KIA is the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation.
Myanmar's government has agreed ceasefires with several other ethnic rebel groups as part of reforms since coming to power last year, a move also aimed at the international community which links eased sanctions with the peace process.
In January, President Thein Sein's government told the military to halt all offensives in ethnic minority conflict zones.
But violence in the Kachin area, re-ignited after a 17-year ceasefire was shattered last year, has continued to rage prompting fears it could obstruct national peace.
Khin Yi, the minister of immigration who has been involved in negotiations, in January conceded the President's orders were not always carried out in the remote and hostile combat zones.
"Sometimes, the order (not to attack) did not reach the grassroot level," he said.
Peace was not going to be easy as "both sides are very emotional", added Win Min, a Myanmar expert at the Vahu Development Institute.
The international community has condemned the violence after tens of thousands of people were displaced by fighting.
The reports accused the KIA of killing a toddler and wounding civilians in their attacks. But the Kachins denied the allegations, saying the stories were aimed at legitimising the military assault.
"In our history we never attack civilians," the rebel official said.
First Published: Thursday, May 03, 2012, 15:52