Analysis: A long way to go to create a peaceful Kachin state in Burma
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Analysis: A long way to go to create a peaceful Kachin state in Burma

Ethnic minorities, including the Kachin people, have suffered decades of ruthless military offensives in the name of state security. Attacks on these rural civilians continue on a regular basis. There is a constant demand from Burma’s ethnic groups to allow them equal political, social and economic rights. They desire legitimate promise for the right of self-rule including equal representation for every ethnic group in the Parliament. Besides, they also demand to include provisions against racial discrimination in the constitution.

The government of Burma or Myanmar and the European Union agree that there is now an historic opportunity to secure lasting peace in Burma and for bringing prosperity to ethnic areas after decades of conflict. The Myanmar Peace Center will work towards this goal. MPC has to build confidence and it will carry on establishing the respect for political and human rights, the European Commission said in a November 2012 statement.

The central committee of Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) released a public statement on June 12, 2013 to reiterate the seven-point agreement signed between KIO and the Burmese government delegation at Myitkyina’s Ma-nau compound on May 30.

The KIO’s statement said the seven-point agreement was signed hoping that it would lead towards sustainable political conclusion and long-standing peace. KIO again said in the statement that political discussions will halt long running civil-war and equal rights will guarantee all ethnic nationalities in Burma to live in peace and harmony.

In the meantime, the Burmese army has been reinforcing more troops in the Kachin region despite the fact that the two sides agreed to prepare to trim down the military strength. Fighting has continued in the Kachin and northern Shan State as the Burmese army further encroached into territories controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and its allies, according to the Kachinland News.

Despite both sides agreeing to decrease military tension in the last 30-May meeting, battles continue in northern Shan State between the KIA and Burmese Government Army. A battle took place between Kachin people militia (MHH) troops from section 2 of KIA’s 36th Battalion and Burmese army’s 128th Light Infantry Regiment at Hu-Bang bridge located between Loi-Sa and Ying-Seng village in northern Shan State on June 18 and no casualties have been reported from either side.

According to the Kachinland News, Burmese army troops reportedly arrested and took two Wing-Seng villagers to the battle frontline. Maran Yaw, a 23-year-old villager, of Wing-Seng village and Zahkung Lum Awng, a father of six children, have been taken to serve as porters on June 14. Zahkung Lum Awng was shot from the back by a Burmese army soldier during the battle between KIA and Burmese army troops at Hu-Bang Bridge on June 18, said a local villager. He said the government soldiers buried the body of Zahkung Lum Awng and offered 200,000 kyats to his family.

According to the Kachin News Group, more than 100 villagers fled their homes in northern Shan state following heavy clashes between Burma army forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), referring to local residents. The displaced Kachin that sought refuge near Loi-Hem last week are from Loi-Lawm, Ka-Li, Loi-Hem and Nam-Gut in the Mong-koe area of Mu-se Township.

Government troops allegedly executed Kachin civilian Zahkung Lum Awng from Nong-Hem village, according to a friend of the victim’s family. Sources say that before being killed on June 14 he was forced to work as a guide by troops in the area.


A Kachin soldier mans a frontline position near the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization, in Laiza, Burma. Pic: AP.

Kachin villagers in Mongkoe region report that government forces operating in the area are considering all civilians as their enemies because the region is under KIA 4th Brigade’s control. KIA civilian militia Mungshawa Hpyen Hpung also joins operations in the area. The latest fighting in northern Shan state occurred brusquely after KIO leaders and government peacemaking representatives met in the Kachin state capital agreeing to take steps to reduce tensions.

As both sides had agreed on paper to set up a ‘Joint Monitoring Committee’ to trim down military tension, discussions on the safe return and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees would continue as a main concern in the imminent talks, said the statement. Yet, the agreement appeared to be an introductory step toward a ceasefire rather than a breakthrough. The KIO maintains on a political solution, not just a ceasefire.

Although the two sides have to keep on talking about the outposts in conflict zones, the government armed forces do not stop deploying along the conflict areas in Kachin’s territories. Therefore, it seems to be taking much time to reach an accord of ending this interminable war. The political scenario looks like genuine peace may not be installed simply in the war-torn Kachin State within President Thein Sein’s term.

In keeping with the reliable frontline reports, the conflict against KIA was started by the Burmese government and the KIO has to use their own right to defend their native land. In the view of Kachin people, their land has been forcefully occupied by the Burmese government.

The Burmese government has exploited natural resources in Kachin State by using its armed forces. The Tarpein Hydro-power Project is being constructed by China to facilitate its power needs. In return, China protects the Burmese government, which has very bad human rights records, by using its veto power in the UN Security Council.

However the KIA is opposed to the dam projects in the Kachin state, saying the dams will be environmentally and socially destructive. In fact, armed conflicts between the Burma armed forces and KIA has widened since the ethnic armed group refused to accept the junta’s new constitution which says the Burma Army is the only military institution in the country.

Several ethnic armed groups including the KIA have already decided to defend their basic rights by holding their guns. If the incumbent President Thein Sein government fails to solve this delicate political question by means of political dialogue, civil war may not be avoided.

Unless the government resolved the root cause of the ethnic war in Kachin state, both positive political change and economic reforms would likely to go downhill.