Kachin Activists, Monks Begin 2-Month March

A group of five monks and 15 activists walks through Rangoon on Monday morning, beginning a two-month march to Kachin State in north Burma. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

A group of five monks and 15 activists walks through Rangoon on Monday morning, beginning a two-month march to Kachin State in north Burma. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—A group of activists and monks have embarked on a peace march from Rangoon to Kachin State, urging the government to stop the fighting between ethnic rebels and the national army in Burma’s northernmost state.

The march, which is expected to take two months, began on Monday morning from Rangoon’s city hall but was delayed after the 15 activists and five monks were stopped by local authorities.

“We plan to walk 30 miles every day, but we couldn’t do that today because the authorities blocked us for a while, so there has been a delay,” Aung Min Naing, one of the activists, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Authorities told the marchers they needed to apply for government permission, Aung Min Naing said, adding that the group had already shared their plans with the government’s peace center and ethnic affairs committee.

The activists are calling for an end to the conflict that has raged in Kachin State since a 17-year ceasefire between ethnic rebels and the government broke down in June 2011.

After weeks of heavy fighting this month, President Thein Sein said the government had ordered a ceasefire in the resource-rich northern state, but clashes continued on the ground.

The activists and monks are marching to Laiza, a town near the border with China where tens of thousands of civilians live and have taken shelter in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP). The town has been the target of recent air raids because it is where ethnic rebels from the Kachin Independence Army have established their headquarters.

The government has forbidden international aid groups from accessing the IDP camps in Laiza and other rebel-held areas.

In Rangoon, onlookers gave the marchers food and money for the displaced Kachin civilians.

“This is how they show us that they want to have peace,” Aung Min Naing said. “We’ll keep walking to reach Laiza unless the government puts us in prison.”

The activists reached Pegu Division, on the border with Rangoon Division, on Tuesday but were again restricted by local authorities.

“They told us not to hold up our flags,” said Yan Naing Tun, another activist on the march.

Like many ethnic groups in Burma, the KIA has long fought for basic rights and greater autonomy from the national government, and is calling for political dialogue to discuss a resolution.


4 Responses to Kachin Activists, Monks Begin 2-Month March

  1. Buddhist monks are still the ones who care and love the citizens of the Union of Burma. No matter what! They are the pillar in the political landscape. They are not seeking office or power but caring the ones who are in need. I am a Christian minister but I salute these monks. The monks have beautiful history throughout generations. They rose up against bad kings. They rose up against colonial rule. They rose up against evil military rules(Ne Win, Sein Lwin, Maung Maung, Saw Maung and Than Shwe). This time, these monks are the first ones who stood up and walk almost a thousand miles long journey for PEACE.

    • Amen to that.

      There was one monk in history called Panthagu Maha-thera sent as a peace envoy to China from Bagan, and he succeeded. The imperial power however would conquer and subjugate the minorities in the hills all around us starting with the Shan,

      This is the 21st century but our military rulers too are so bent on subjugating the minorities and exploiting their homelands to a much greater extent in a globalised economy, they blatantly involved business concerns in the guise of reconstruction and development in the so called peace talks. Time we also put an end to the triumphalist posturing and sabre rattling by warmongers that the giant statues of the three empire builders at Naytpyidaw are symbolic of.

  2. We must show solidarity with the minorities and desire for peace. This kind of action needs support and participation by more and more people along the route. Remember we are all in this together.

    Forget the bogus ceasefires. The parliamentary vote that Shwe Man pushed through must be reinforced by popular support and direct action even if he was cynically doing it mainly to put his own stamp on parliament and politics and put ASSK in her place at the same time. She has done herself no favor by sitting on the fence, hedging her bets over a national matter of great urgency as she has done over the land grabbing issue.

    PEACE, LAND and FOOD!

  3. Well said, Moe Aung & Bawia. I am a Kachin Christian but I greatly respect the Buddhist monks for their leading roles in Burma’s political landscape not for the power or popularity but for the rights of the citizens and for justice. I wish more religious leaders would follow their example and join the peace walk. Because, it is the job of everyone who love peace and justice.

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