As food shortages bite civilians, Kachin parties ask for urgent meeting with military

Maung Htoo

As tensions between the military and the KIO/KIA have intensified, the prices of local commodities have skyrocketed. To work out a solution, Kachin political parties have asked for an immediate meeting between the KIO/KIA and the military.

Tensions between the KIO/KIA and the military increased last month after the KIO destroyed bridges in eastern Sumprabum during clashes.

“No one from either side dares to pass through the area. No big or small vehicles dare to cross the area and so no commodities can be transported,” said Dr Manan Tujar, chairman of the Kachin State Democracy Party (KSDP). “Commodity prices are not only higher, things are so bad that there are shortages of commodities.”

Given that it’s unknown how long it would take to mend the destroyed bridges, Manan Tujar said, “the only option is for both sides to negotiate to get a satisfactory result.”

With the shortages of food and other commodities, “local people are in great danger. … Without delay, officials from both sides need to settle the problem.

“I request that both sides meet and find a solution,” he continued.

A bottle of fuel oil that recently cost 800-1000 kyat now costs eight times as much.

Other food items have doubled or tripled their usual costs, said MP Moe Shwe of Puta O Township.

“As I understand things, the KIO has requested direct talks with the Peace Commission and the KIA is preparing to sign the NCA. But, people are the victims,” said Dr Ankawla from the Kachin National Congress Party (KNC).

“I think both sides need to stand down from their positions. [The military] needs to think about the Kachin local people rather than looking at things only from the military point of view. If both sides can balance these things, there will be a solution. Otherwise, hatred will increase on both sides.

Ankawla continued: “Some think that hardships happened due to KIO. Others think that it’s because of the military, as they hunger for natural resources on Kachin land. The result is not good for either side. Military should put their emphasis on the peace process and the KIO should seek a way to speed up the peace process. Only then will the people’s suffering ease.”

In February, Lt-General Tun Tun Naung, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Bureau of Special Operations 1, met in Tarli, China with KIO General N’Ban La, chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA).

Their talks were at the military-to-military level and being conducted with the support of China.

However, no consensus was achieved in the discussions, according to a KIO statement.