Army Prevents Kachin Peace Marchers from Reaching Laiza

By Zarni Mann 12 March 2013

Dozens of Kachin peace activists and monks on a march to Laiza from Myingyan in Magwe Division have been prevented from reaching the besieged stronghold of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) by Burmese government forces.

The peace campaigners set out on the march to urge the government to stop the fighting in Kachin State, where conflict between the Burmese army and the KIO’s armed wing has raged since June 2011 and intensified near Laiza toward the end of last year.

They were stopped by government troops based near Nan Lae Creek, about 14 km from Laiza, and warned to turn around.

Aung Min Naing, a member of another group marching to Laiza from Rangoon, said: “They [the Myingyan marchers] were told not to proceed with the march because there is no government security after that point and there are landmines in the area.

“They are camping at Lan Nan bridge, about 14 km from Laiza, and are discussing the situation with the military.”

The group, which includes nine Buddhist monks and 11 women, set off from Myingyan on Feb. 7 and reached the frontline on March 9. They have reportedly refused offers of food from the Burmese army, despite having little of their own food left to eat.

“We worry about them as they do not accept food from the army, although the food they brought with them has almost run out. We hope we can give them the food and other supplies they might need when we reach them,” said Aung Min Naing from the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina.

“However, we do not know yet whether they will be able to proceed or not, as the mobile network coverage is bad in the area,” he added.

“We think we will also experience the same problem when we reach there. But if they [the army] said there are landmines, it means there will be a high risk of traveling in the area.”

He added: “We wonder why the army did not help the activists to clear the landmines and escort them on their way to Laiza. If people really want peace, they should provide security and support to those who walk for peace.”

Ye Htut, the spokesperson for the office of President Thein Sein, wrote on his Facebook account that the local military authorities have advised the marchers against continuing, adding that the government is currently in talks with the KIO to end the fighting and is allowing humanitarian supplies into the city.

The activists who marched from Rangoon said they will head for Laiza on March 15.

Kachin leaders rejected calls from the government for an immediate ceasefire during talks in the Chinese border town of Ruili on Monday.

An estimated 100,000 Kachin villagers have been displaced as a result of the conflict, many of whom are currently taking refuge at camps on the Chinese side of the border.