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Published on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 12:28
A refugee camp in Waing Maw Township of Kachin State seen in September (Photo - Tun Nay Hlaing/EMG)
Skirmishes in Kachin State continue despite President Thein Sein’s order to the military to stop offensives on December 10 last year, affected residents noted.
Confrontations between the military and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have displaced locals and affected their livelihood.
MP U J Yaw Wu of Kachin State said the conflict escalated in early December.
He noted that military attacks continued in the northern Shan State and Mai Jaryam despite the presidential order.
The fighting soon spread to Momauk, Bhamo, Mansi, Waingmaw and Myitkyina townships, displacing locals.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) reached about 50,000 at the refugee camps in Kachin State by end-2011. International organisations estimated the number of civil war refugees at about 100,000.
Some IDPs who fled to China were forced to return to Myanmar in August after Chinese authorities rejected them.
Kachin has been affected by ethnic conflict after Myanmar regained its independence in 1948. The Burma Socialist Programme Party negotiated with the Kachin Independent Council in June 1963 but talks failed.
There was a ceasefire between the two sides for 10 months from August 1980 to May 1981.
Negotiations were made between the military and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) on Oct 18, 1990. According to records, the government and KIO held peace talks on Dec 24, 1992, and the armistice was signed on Feb 24, 1994.
On June 9, 2011, after 17 years of ceasefire, the conflict between the military and KIA resumed in Momauk township in Bhamo district.
The first Union-level peace talks between the government and the ethnic armed force was held in the last week of November 2011, and the second one was held in the third week of January this year. The third and the fourth meetings were held from March 8 to 10, and on October 30 in Ruli, China. However, a ceasefire agreement was not reached.
“The situation has become more confused as it is being handled militarily, instead of politically. If the government is willing, the issue could be addressed within a day. But I think they have prolonged it as they are not willing. The constitution and laws must guarantee rights for national races. The constitution must also guarantee genuine democracy and federal system as well as autonomy for the regions of national races. We should discuss this in detail beyond the parliament,” said Daw Khun Gyar of the Kachin Peace Network.
Upper House MP U Khet Htein Nan of Kachin State said during a parliament session on September 6 that top military officials should discuss the matter and find a solution to the conflict.
The KIA has vowed to agree to a ceasefire only after a political dialogue, noted Deputy Defence Minister Brig-Gen Aung Thaw.
He added that while the army did not launch offensives against the KIA following the president’s directive, they had to ensure that security in the area was implemented.
Lt. Col. Kyaw Thu, head of the Defence Minister’s Office, declined to answer queries by Eleven Media on the ongoing clashes saying he was not aware of the details.
According to locals, about 2,000 skirmishes have occurred between the military and KIA as of June this year.
“A two-year period of suspension for the education of local children is like harming the future of one generation. About 30,000 houses and buildings have been destroyed. It will take years to go back to normal for the region. Many acres of land are unproductive. Low production plus expenses for feeding war victims are a burden to the state. Innocent people have died of curable diseases while children under three are dying from malnutrition. There is only a bleak future for autistic children. More than 100,000 people are living in dire need of help without food and water. It will be very difficult to rehabilitate them. Their future is in complete darkness,” said Daw Khun Gyar.