Kachin civil­ians de­mand end to decades of fight­ing

Thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered in My­itky­ina yes­ter­day call­ing for the Tat­madaw to cease ag­gres­sions in Kachin and north­ern Shan states amid a resur­gence in clashes.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

THOU­SANDS of peo­ple gath­ered yes­ter­day at the sym­bol­i­cally im­por­tant Manaw Park in My­itky­ina, the Kachin State cap­i­tal, call­ing for a halt to mil­i­tary of­fen­sives in Kachin and north­ern Shan states.

Daw Nang Tu, a women’s rights ac­tivist and an or­gan­iser of yes­ter­day’s demon­stra­tion, said more than 10,000 res­i­dents as­sem­bled at Manaw Park and then held a prayer service urg­ing an end to re­cent fight­ing be­tween the Tat­madaw and the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army.

“The mil­i­tary ten­sion in Kachin and north­ern Shan states is too high. We call for the govern­ment’s in­ter­ven­tion in the Tat­madaw’s ag­gres­sive mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties in the states,” she said.

Or­gan­is­ers had orig­i­nally planned to stage a protest march through the state cap­i­tal, ac­cord­ing to Daw Nang Tu, but po­lice and lo­cal administrative au­thor­i­ties later in­formed them that they needed to sub­mit an of­fi­cial re­quest five days in ad­vance of the planned event, lead­ing to yes­ter­day’s more sub­dued show­ing.

Re­newed fight­ing be­tween the KIA and the Tat­madaw flared in midAu­gust and per­sisted through last month. Shrap­nel from an ar­tillery shell al­legedly launched by Tat­madaw forces fight­ing the KIA in Muse town­ship killed a two-year-old girl from Pu Wang vil­lage on Oc­to­ber 1. Two other chil­dren un­der 10 were also hos­pi­talised with in­juries from the at­tack.

Tat­madaw rep­re­sen­ta­tives could not be reached for com­ment yes­ter­day.

The shelling has prompted both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional out­cry, as well as fresh calls for an end to the fight­ing.

Women’s or­gan­i­sa­tions in Kachin State sent a let­ter to State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi over the week­end in hopes that she would wade into the con­flict to lower mil­i­tary ten­sions and to pro­tect women and chil­dren in con­flict-af­fected ar­eas.

The United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for the war­ring par­ties to “re­spect and abide by their obli­ga­tions un­der in­ter­na­tional law” by en­sur­ing the protection of schools and hos­pi­tals from mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion or assault.

It also called on ac­tors in the con­flict to en­sure that “chil­dren are not sub­jected to bomb­ings or at­tacks of any kind, [and for] the end of their use and re­cruit­ment in armed forces of any kind”.

“Con­flicts take a high toll on chil­dren in Myan­mar,” Bertrand Bain­vel, UNICEF’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Myan­mar, said in a state­ment yes­ter­day. “All par­ties to the con­flict must keep chil­dren out of harm’s way.”

For chil­dren, Mr Bain­vel said, con­cerns about con­flict ex­tend be­yond their im­me­di­ate phys­i­cal safety as dis­place­ment takes its own toll.

“They miss out on school­ing and too fre­quently they ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cal and emo­tional dam­age as they grow up in the midst of vi­o­lence,” he said.

He also said that the suf­fer­ings of chil­dren liv­ing in con­flict-af­fected ar­eas and their fu­ture must be of prime con­cern in on­go­ing peace talks be­tween the govern­ment and eth­nic armed groups.

“The need to pro­tect them now can­not wait for a com­pre­hen­sive agree­ment to be reached,” said Mr Bain­vel.

A 17-year cease­fire agree­ment be­tween the KIA and govern­ment broke down in June 2011, when Tat­madaw fight­ers at­tacked KIA po­si­tions along the Tarp­ing River in Bhamaw/ Bhamo town­ship. Nearly 100,000 civil­ians have since been dis­placed by con­flict in Kachin and north­ern Shan states, ac­cord­ing to an Au­gust up­date from the United Na­tions Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs.

The KIA was among eight eth­nic armed groups that were in­vited to sign last Oc­to­ber’s na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment but de­clined, with ab­stain­ers ob­ject­ing to a Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party-led process that they said was only par­tially in­clu­sive.

The suc­ces­sor to the USDP govern­ment, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Na­tional League for Democ­racy, has faced its own crit­i­cism, with its 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence prov­ing to be a largely sym­bolic af­fair with lit­tle dis­cern­able im­pact on Tat­madaw con­duct on the ground.

The Tat­madaw is not, how­ever, un­der the con­trol of her civil­ian lead­er­ship, with the 2008 con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tee­ing full au­ton­omy to the na­tion’s armed forces.

Oth­ers have said the civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion is not do­ing enough for in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDPs) in ar­eas of ac­tive or la­tent con­flict.

Jaw San Naw, joint gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Kachin Demo­cratic Party, said he had never heard of any se­nior govern­ment lead­ers – at the state or Union level – vis­it­ing IDP camps.

“Both the leg­isla­tive and the ex­ec­u­tive branches are not say­ing any­thing about the fight­ing, while civil­ians’ lives are at risk amid the fight­ing. I think they are too afraid to raise these is­sues with the Tat­madaw,” he said.

“They should at least visit the camps to en­cour­age the IDPs and give them moral sup­port. They have not done so.” “They are just too silent,” he added. U Khun Maung Thaung, chair of the lower house’s Eth­nic Af­fairs and In­ter­nal Peace Im­ple­men­ta­tion Com­mit­tee, said the govern­ment should per­suade the mil­i­tary to de-es­ca­late mil­i­tary ten­sion in Kachin and Shan states, but that sign­ing the NCA might go some way to­ward end­ing the con­flict.

Crit­ics of the NCA have said in some cases, how­ever, the ac­cord ap­pears to have ac­tu­ally raised ten­sions be­tween sig­na­to­ries and non-sig­na­to­ries, such as in north­ern Shan State, where mem­bers of the sig­na­tory Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State have clashed with the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army since the sign­ing.

U Khun Maung Thaung said he has called a com­mit­tee meet­ing to dis­cuss the lat­est fight­ing be­tween the KIA and the Tat­madaw. When asked whether any mem­bers of the com­mit­tee would raise the is­sue in par­lia­ment, he said the meet­ing to­mor­row would de­cide.

Photo: Sup­plied/Hkun Awng Nlam

Photo: Sup­plied

A wo­man speaks to yes­ter­day’s gath­er­ing in My­itky­ina in sup­port of an end to fight­ing in Kachin and Shan states.

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