CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Experts on Burma’s Kachin State conflict shared their research from the area with an international audience at a seminar titled “War in Northern Myanmar,” held at Chiang Mai University in northern Thailand on Monday.
The Kachinland Research Center (KRC) looked at a range of issues, from the civil war and causes behind Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) rebellion, to the voices of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to Kachin customary law, art, literature and history.
The seminar was intended to share KRC research with a wider audience, said Maran Ja Htoi Pan, anthropologist and associate director of the KRC.
Last week, the Kachin scholars also held the Kachinland Study Symposium to share their research with locals in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.
Seven speakers, both Kachin and foreign, highlighted the effects of almost six years of renewed conflict between the Burma Army and the KIO on the lives of locals.
The KIO had a 17-year ceasefire with the previous military government from 1994-2011, but the recent conflict has displaced more than 100,000 people.
The KRC was started last year to conduct research and draw wider attention to the political and democratic transition, the peace process, security, drug issues, and development during the ceasefire period, said Dan Seng Lawn, a political analyst and the KRC director.
He said this research fills a gap, documenting the effects of a war that greatly shaped the lives of ethnic Kachin, whether they stayed at home or fled.
The KRC will launch its first academic, peer-reviewed journal in October.
Research presentations also focused on traditional Kachin understanding of gender identity and the sexual violence endured throughout the civil war, with the recent high-profile case of two Kachin schoolteachers who were raped and murdered in Shan State in 2015.
Maran Nang Htoi Rawng, a joint general secretary from the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, said some of the sexual violence against women is considered private due to customary laws.
“These laws need to be widely understood in order to understand sexual violence in our state due to civil war,” she said, highlighting that women are most often the victims of sexual violence but due to customary laws they have limited power as decision makers.
Gender activists added that women are not in decision-making roles, and that they are needed there in order to safeguard their security and represent themselves in talks related to the peace process with the government and armed groups.