Thousands of Kachin Locals Call on Burma Army to Stop Assaults

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 3 October 2016

Following intensified clashes between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an estimated 10,000 members of the Kachin public staged a demonstration on Monday on the manaw festival grounds in the state capital of Myitkyina, calling for an end to ongoing armed conflict.

The demonstration was held from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in Sitapu Ward. Participants included locals, religious leaders, historians, environmentalists and members of civil society groups.

Demonstrators shouted slogans demanding federalism and self-determination and held signs calling on the Burma Army to immediately end military offensives, while stressing the need to solve political problems with political means.

They also called for a halt to mega development projects until internally displaced persons (IDPs) are able to “return home with dignity.” Demonstrators also condemned the rape of ethnic women during conflicts.

“Kachin people publicly denounce those assaults. We demand the Burma military to stop all their assaults in Kachin State,” said community elder Lone Jone Turaw in his address to the demonstrators.

Since renewed fighting broke out between the Burmese military and the KIA in June 2011, more than 10,000 houses, 300 villages, 100 schools, and 60 churches are reported to have been destroyed in Kachin communities. Over 100,000 people remain displaced, he said.

Sporadic clashes have happened near KIA military outposts since the end of August and have intensified around Laiza, where the KIA headquarters are located.

“There are no clashes for the time being. The last clash took place on October 1 near Inkaren Hill,” said Lt-Col Naw Bu, an information officer with the KIA.

But clashes have not ceased completely and military columns are still deployed near KIA outposts; members of the KIA have seen the Burma military airlifting supplies to their troops, reinforcing their positions. “So, we are still on the alert,” said the spokesperson.

The KIA suspects the Burmese military of using chemical weapons during clashes in September, Lt-Col Naw Bu said. He explained that KIA troops at the front line felt dizzy for around 15 minutes after Burma Army soldiers released a “burst of fire” during a clash.

“If the Burma Army does not stop their assaults, the defensive war will continue. So, I would like to urge the people to be alert and to call for a stop to the assaults,” he said.

On October 1, one Kachin infant was killed and two more children were seriously injured after artillery fire reportedly by the Burma Army hit Puwang village in northern Shan State’s Muse Township.

The Irrawaddy tried in vain several times to contact the Burmese military spokesperson about the allegations of their attacks on KIA and the artillery fire on civilians. The Burma Army has yet to make an official statement.

Kaw Mai, an IDP staying in a camp in Waingmaw Township, said: “We have no discrimination against the Bamar. We just want to live in unity,” referring to the ethnic Burman majority in the country. “I feel sympathy for all those who have to go to the front line. They have families and children. I don’t want them to suffer losses.”

Organizers of Monday’s demonstration had planned to stage a protest march in Myitkyina and sought the approval of the concerned police force under Burma’s peaceful assembly and procession law. However, the law dictates that such a request for an event has to be made five days in advance, so protesters gathered at the manaw grounds instead.

Authorities have given permission for a protest march on Thursday, October 6, and organizers have said that they will march through Myitkyina on that day.