RANGOON — Recent fighting in Kachin State has forced National League for Democracy chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi to amend her itinerary ahead of a series of campaign rallies planned across the conflict-wracked state beginning on Friday.
During the five-day visit, Suu Kyi will make campaign stops in several key centers across the state, including the capital Myitkyina.
But Mansi Township, where conflict between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army has been ongoing since Sept. 19, is now off the agenda, according to the party.
Win Htein, a National League for Democracy (NLD) central executive committee member, said Suu Kyi would not visit Kachin State’s southernmost township due to “security concerns.”
He added that a public rally scheduled for Hpakant would be cancelled as the area was difficult to access.
Suu Kyi’s planned Oct. 2-5 trip to the state has been marked by other setbacks in recent days.
On Monday, The Irrawaddy reported that local authorities in Myitkyina had rejected a request by the NLD to hold a campaign rally at the town’s Manaw festival grounds, selected by the party as the most suitable venue for a potentially large rally.
Last week, Zakhung Ting Ying, a sitting MP and leader of the New Democratic Army-Kachin, issued a letter ordering the NLD not to campaign in up to four townships in which his pro-government militia operates.
However, according to The Myanmar Times, in a meeting brokered by the Kachin State election sub-commission on Tuesday, the militia leader agreed to back down.
In Mansi Township, fighting over the past 12 days has taken a heavy toll on civilians, with over 300 villagers displaced, according to local aid group, the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC).
The group said on Monday that three civilians were killed and two injured during fighting on Sept. 23 at Mai Hkawng.
Burma’s state-run media weighed in on Wednesday, reporting that local residents of Mansi had asked the Burma Army to “wipe out the KIA from Kachin State.”
The article, carried in the Global New Light of Myanmar and citing the military’s mouthpiece Myawady News, came the day after several major ethnic armed groups, including the KIA, withheld support for a nationwide ceasefire agreement during an ethnic summit in northern Thailand.
San Aung, a member of the KIA involved in peace talks with the government, said the report was untrue and that locals had called on both sides to stop fighting.
Nang Zin La Ja, an aid worker with KBC, said sporadic fighting on Tuesday broke out mid-morning and continued into the night.
“Almost everyone in the town is traumatized. They are fighting all day and night,” he said, adding that residents of Mansi cannot travel freely due to the fighting.
“The [Burma Army] is firing artillery based in the town toward distant KIA posts. We are worried about this when we deliver aid to displaced people.”