Distrust and Displacement on Kachin Frontline
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Distrust and Displacement on Kachin Frontline

By SIMON ROUGHNEEN / THE IRRAWADDY Tuesday, February 28, 2012

KIA soldier with mortar he claims was captured during fighting with Burmese government army. (Photo: Simon Roughneen)
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“We usually had a good relationship with the soldiers stationed here during the ceasefire, but now there is no communication, since they shot two of our soldiers recently.”

It is not just the day-to-day relations between frontline troops that have changed, says the captain. “There is a big difference between the Burmese troops stationed close to KIA-held areas since the now defunct 1994 ceasefire, and those sent from elsewhere to fight this war,” he explains. “They are better armed and better trained, but so are we, so they usually just shell us from distance rather than face us in a fight.”

Another difference, according to Labang Doi Pyi Sa, head of the KIO Relief Committee, is in the battalions deployed to fight in Kachin state. “As far we know some of these are soldiers trained to face foreign enemies, so it seems that the army sees us as a foreign people,” he claims.

Most of the 70,000 Kachin people driven from their homes by fighting fled as Burmese troops approached. The vast majority of those interviewed by The Irrawaddy—at six camps near Laiza and Mai Ja Yang—say that they ran when they heard gunfire in the distance, leaving before the army arrived at their villages. Only two of those interviewed say they saw or know any civilian who was killed or physically-harmed by Burmese troops. Khaitang Marin, a mother-of-two from near Bhamo but now at Seng Mai camp outside Mai Ja Yang, said, “When the army came, we all ran, but they shot one man.”

Many say they left without most of their possessions, and that they heard the army either ransacked or burned their homes. Sitting inside a bamboo hut at Jeyang camp, Lama Bawk Htoi says that most of Nam San Yang—her village 12 miles away on the other side of Laiza—was burned down by Burmese troops. “It is not safe for us to go back, though we want to as we have been here for eight months now.”

The Jeyang camp—a 15 minute drive from Laiza beside the eponymous river that marks the border with China—hosts more than 5,600 people, making it the biggest refuge for those fleeing fighting inside KIA territory. Kareng Naw Awng, mayor of Laiza who helps manage the camp, says “it would be hoping against hope for them to get their property back, as the Tatmadaw [Burmese government troops] take their animals and valuables from their homes.”

Back at the bridge, the downside for civilians living by isolated Burmese army positions on the Laiza-Myitkina road is that soldiers regularly shake down passers-by, as troops cannot be supplied by the army. Maran Naw Bawk and wife Seng Tawng walked for 11 hours with their three cattle by the time they passed the bridge at Laja Yang. “We took a long way around,” said Seng Tawng, “as they [Burmese soldiers] try to take a cow or some money from people who go to Laiza.”

Seng Tawng and her husband are two new names added to Kachin State's growing number of internal refugees. “There was more fighting last Sunday,” said Maran Naw Bawk. “It was the closest yet to our village, so we think it is not safe any more.” Asked where they will go, he said, “I have relatives in Laiza, we can stay there.” And with a quick goodbye he gives the lead cow a firm crack of his bamboo stick and ushers the animals towards the town.

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Uraw Gam Wrote:
KIO/KIA is the Government of the Kachins. The sovereign of the Kachins must be respected. The Union Government must avoid any colonization type of activities in Kachin including the puppet Kachin State Government.

Kyaw Wrote:
Fully support Mawshe. How can the KIA sign the peace agreement while while there are invasion troops next to them. It is not a political solution, but threatening KIA with the troops to get the signature. KIA will never sign such agreement at the Gun point. Politicians must have the power to order the Military. The peace talk with between the Government and Kachins indicated clearly that there is no power in the hand of the Civilian Government to influence the Army at all. KIA obey the order of KIO, but not Min Aung Hlaing. The International Community must must learn from this lessons that the Democracy in Burma is just very fragile and the real power is still in the hand of Army who do not obey the order of the Parliament. It is almost sure that the Democratic reform will be broken sometimes in the near future when the Army feel that the present openness threaten their advantages.

KI Wrote:
Andy first of all: Its the central government that attacks the KIA. Only thing the KIA does is defend themselves on their own territory.

I agree with the KIA/KIO that there must be a political solution before a ceasfire is signed. The reason for that is that the central government has never given any federal rights to the minorities.

The 2008 constitution says that the ethnic armies have to become border guard forces or lay down their weapons. The KIO/KIA is never going to accept that, so why would they sign a ceasfire when their is no possible political solution afterwards?

Kyansittha Wrote:
Said Ji Nong, “I don't know how much Aung San Suu Kyi knows about the ethnic groups, but we want to include [her] National League for Democracy and the [Shan Nationalities League for Democracy] in any bigger negotiations after that.”

And he says, “the government does not want Aung San Suu Kyi and the Kachin [people] united.”

The guy's RIGHT on the MONEY.

However, he needs to know that CHINA WANTS Kachin Land in addition to Wa and Shan lands as well.

30 Billion Yuan given to Than Shwe on his last visit to China is the MOTIVE BEHIND UNCEASING BATTLES in Kachin land today lest you guys forget.

In case KIA GAVE WAY to Min Aung Hlaing's ONSLAUGHTS the WAR would be OVER and the Chinese communists will CONTINUE with their Myitsone Dam Project, pipelines, rails and roads as well.


And the communists in Beijing will INCLUDE BURMA as a PROVINCE of CHINA, any bets?

andy Wrote:
So when both sides will be talking about political solution, they will still be fighting on the ground ???

It is like 'to put the cart before the horse.' Why can't they (KIA) agree on political solution after 'temporary' ceasefire.

And then political solution will rest assure permanant ceasefire.

MawShe Wrote:
We, Burmese people, want peace but never want to solve political problem. Ethnic insurgencies are not simply militarization but political dispute. Burmese majority wants a unitary democratic country but ethnic people wants a federal democratic union based on Pang Long agreement. Ethnic rebels made ceasefire many times hoping political dialogue will come. But Burmese side always historically avoid or ignore ethnic voices. So, we need "not ceasefire" but "political solution". Political solution will lead to forever peace.

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