News Analysis: State Counselor Seeks Support from Kachin Church Leaders

By The Irrawaddy 26 July 2017

In a surprise move, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi met with 12 members of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) on Monday.

According to statements from both parties, the meeting between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the KBC leaders was productive. However, any resolution on halting the Myanmar Army offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) remained elusive, according to Kachin sources. No military representatives were seen attending the meeting, although the minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement and the chairman of the peace commission were present.

As her original hopes of achieving peace during her current government term have appeared to dim, the meeting with KBC suggests that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her advisers have apparently turned to new sources to attempt to reconcile the divide between her government, and ethnic nationalities and their respective armed groups.

With a membership of over 400,000, the KBC is an influential organization among the ethnic Kachin who are largely Christian.

KBC chairman Rev. Lalawk Gyung Hkawng issued a statement in Burmese before the meeting on July 21, expressing a desire for peace to prevail in Kachin State; meanwhile, fighting between the Tatmadaw and the KIA has intensified in areas like Tanai Township.

In the statement, KBC leaders praised Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership and election campaign slogan of change, but pointed out that conflict with ethnic armed groups had grown under her National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

The KBC representatives urged the State Counselor to engage in further discussions toward building a federal Union instead of convincing armed groups to sign the controversial nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), which the KIA, like most of Myanmar’s ethnic armed organizations, opted out of. The NCA, the statement said, depends on “political assurances,” which cannot be upheld as long as the country’s armed forces have supremacy over the government.

During the meeting, the KBC asked the government to look into the crisis facing internally displaced Kachin people, of which there are more than 100,000, following the breakdown of a ceasefire between the Tatmadaw and the KIA in 2011. The representatives urged Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration to set up a pilot project to deliver aid and allow for international assistance to operate in Kachin State without obstruction. The organization also asked the government to acknowledge the drug eradication campaign taking place in the region, pointing out that the production of drugs is related to political conflict.