THE NORTH WAR, PART II: KACHIN CONFLICT CONTINUES
Project Maje's previous report, The North War: A Kachin Conflict Compilation Report (August 15, 2011) contained background information on the Kachin conflict and a compilation of articles about it from June-July 2011. This new report includes first hand observations from a November 2011 visit to the conflict area, two interviews and a compilation of news articles from August through early December 2011. Both reports are intended for journalists, aid workers and other researchers who may be interested in the in the conflict situation in northern Burma.
Project Maje hopes that the ongoing situation in northern Burma, including resource extraction and human rights issues in addition to the KIO conflict, will be covered in increasing depth and scope by journalists and other investigators in the future. For a detailed view of the human rights and IDP situations in the conflict area, Project Maje particularly recommends two recent NGO reports:
News stories and documents related to the conflict are categorized and reproduced or linked here. They are in chronological order within each category. For more background information and source links, refer to the previous "The North War: A Kachin Conflict Compilation Report."
Project Maje is not responsible for any of the content of any articles or documents reproduced, linked or excerpted in the resource section, and Project Maje DOES NOT endorse them or vouch for their accuracy. These materials and links are intended for informational and educational purposes. Journalists and other researchers needing further information and advice regarding northern Burma issues can contact Project Maje.
Project Maje is an independent information project on Burma's human rights and environmental issues, founded in 1986. The founder/director of Project Maje, Edith Mirante, visited KIO-controlled areas of Kachin State in 1991, 1995, 2002 and 2011. Photos and sketch map of Kachin State are by Edith Mirante.
Project Maje thanks those in Laiza who provided information and helped with arrangements, friends in Hong Kong, JP in PDX and as always, Bruce for the website.
Introduction: Observations of Laiza
A visitor to Laiza, a Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) administered town on the border with China, might be struck by how normal things seem, for a place under siege by Burma's Tatmadaw armed forces and vulnerable to air attack. With concrete buildings including schools, a library and hotels, and numerous shops selling motorcycles, fruit and fashionable shoes, plus a golf course on the outskirts, Laiza has the ambiance of a thriving nation state, rather than a rebel jungle frontier outpost. During the ceasefire it had grown to be a regional trade center, with abundant electricity from its own medium sized hydroelectric generating plants. The Kachins conducting the current war from Laiza headquarters have their own brand of bottled water ("Pajau") and their own television station (LZTV) which plays local music videos, the World War II miniseries "The Pacific" and on Sundays, movies about Jesus. The atmosphere of purposeful prosperity indicates what the KIO is giving up by resuming warfare after 17 years in ceasefire. After almost six months of conflict, which began at the Taping dam sites on June 9, 2011, trade is actually at a near standstill, and internally displaced people (IDPs) are billeted in the town hall and other public or private spaces, unable to cross the border to a safer haven in China. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) command is centered at Laiza, and KIA troops were holding off the Tatmadaw at frontline ridges in the nearby N'tap mountains as of late November, 2011.
The war in eastern Kachin State and an adjacent area of northern Shan State has produced an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees, the vast majority internally displaced within Burma. The imminent threat of violence, particularly the Tatmadaw's typical violence against civilian women, compelled the IDPs to flee their home villages. A 58 year old woman caring for her grandchild in a Laiza shelter, said that she "left my farm animals and fled with a group of eight people when we heard shots fired. We heard that people were taken away and killed, and their farms destroyed. I had to walk over mountains to come here and I have a heart condition. My husband is back there. The men went back to try and harvest paddy." A man who had been staying in a factory building in Laiza for three months, had fled with his family when other villagers were captured and tortured by the Tatmadaw.
The IDPs have been an overwhelming humanitarian problem, as China has not allowed most of them to enter, relief assistance from overseas has not been able to reach them through China, and aid has been slow to reach them from inside Burma. Although China allowed tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese Kokang refugees from the Tatmadaw takeover of the Kokang ceasefire group in August 2019 to cross the border as refugees, China has discouraged a similar crossover in 2011, perhaps as a way to pressure the KIO into giving up its fight, which has been an impediment to some Chinese economic interests in Burma. Kachin sources said that the IDPs are safe enough in the heavily defended Laiza and Mai Ja Yang areas for now, but Tatmadaw encroachments in those areas would inevitably send the IDPs over the river border en masse as refugees, however much China wishes to discourage that.
Kachin civil society volunteer groups have made extraordinary efforts to house, feed, clothe and educate the IDPs, and to provide medical care, but their resources are limited, provided in large part by overseas Kachins and the KIO, which is of course funding the war effort at the same time. Even with adequate funding, supplies such as blankets and food are not obtainable for purchase in large quantities from China, apparently purposely blocked.
There are a few thousand people from the conflict area who have made it to the China side of the border; if they are not able to stay with relatives there or rent a place to live, they subsist in very poor conditions such as huts made of plastic sheeting. Others fleeing the conflict zone have gone to stay in Burma government controlled towns such as Mytikyina and Bhamo, where some help is available from family members, church groups and NGOs.
Relief Action Network for IDP and Refugees (RANIR) is a coordinating body for the Kachin volunteer groups including Kachin Development Group and Wunpawng Ninghtoi, which are taking care of IDP needs. RANIR does meticulous documentation and maintains an online database. According to RANIR, the urgent requirements are food, warmth and shelter, and there should be a UNHCR survey of the situation.
Outside of Laiza the Jeyang Hka IDP camp consists of simple bamboo houses with tarp roofs, sprawling along a dusty road. Established in July 2011, it sheltered 1,166 families as of late November 2011, with three families per house. Statistics on camp residents were kept updated on a whiteboard. Most resident IDPs were mothers with children, as men had gone back to their farms to harvest rice, in spite of the danger from the Tatmadaw. The IDPs had hiked through hilly terrain to reach Laiza, and then were sent to stay in the Jeyang Hka camp. Rations of rice, salt and small amounts of cooking oil were furnished to each family. Fuel wood for cooking was gathered from nearby secondary-growth forest. Some vegetable gardens had been planted. Water was piped from the river to a storage tank for drinking, cooking and washing. Latrines had been placed around the camp. IDP women had set up a few small shops and there was a volunteer-staffed health clinic. A bamboo-walled school served 1,075 students in crowded classrooms. 33 volunteer teachers and 17 other volunteers were working at Jeyang Hka in late November 2011. While health problems were manageable in November 2011, the possibility of an epidemic sweeping through the crowded camp was of great concern. Camp coordinators listed the main problems as inadequate nutrition, low fuel supplies and lack of warm blankets/clothing, as the cold Kachin winter approached, with temperatures as low as 8 degrees C (46 degrees F) expected. Kachin State gets colder than that at higher altitudes (Mai Ja Yang) and further north (Pajau), with snow at higher elevations.
In the town of Laiza, IDPs who were early to arrive were housed in locations including the town hall, the two story Manao hall (at the ceremonial dance grounds), an open-sided factory building and in individual houses. Conditions in the mass locations, sheltering hundreds of families, were crowded and noisy, with inadequate sanitary facilities. Flattened cardboard boxes and woven mats were used to insulate cold concrete floors and demarcate living space. Food was prepared communally in outdoor kitchens. There were evening prayer meetings and television. Laiza's schools were on two shifts a day so that IDP children could continue their education. According to a local source, "Some of the kids think this is all some kind of a Christmas party, but they wonder when they can go home." The overall impression was of a well-organized basic safe zone that could too easily get out of control from vulnerability to illness, malnutrition and cold weather, as the war increased in intensity during the winter.
According to Gen. Gun Maw, vice chief of staff of the KIA (full interview below) as of November 2011, "The time of fighting is increasing from month to month. Within October one month, there were about 180 of these clashes. Likewise in November, over 100 of these fightings. During these battles, the government are using the infantry divisions. Usually these infantry divisions are used to defend against foreign invasion. So that means they are fighting us like a foreign invasion."
KIA sources claim 6,000 to 8,000 regular troops on their side, plus armed civilian militia in support. The Burmese government's Tatmadaw, with almost 500,000 soldiers, has sent considerable troop numbers to the eastern Kachin State and northeast Shan State to fight the KIA since June 9, 2011.
A KIA source estimated that the KIA "killed 300 Tatmadaw soldiers in one month, and on some days, we kill 50. In a week, six of our soldiers were killed." Claims of far higher casualties on the Tatmadaw side than the KIA side appear credible, explained by Tatmadaw tactics in unfamiliar terrain and climate. According to a KIA source, "Soldiers from lower Burma are being sent here, from the Karen fighting area. Hundreds of them have been killed, sometimes so many our soldiers have no chance to change the magazines in their guns. The enemy has plenty of ammunition, but they can't use vehicles to transport it so they are exhausted by carrying it. Hundreds of their mules ran away. No civilians are left around to catch for portering. The Tatmadaw cannot bring artillery up high in our mountain terrain." The KIA, in its own familiar territory, was using pickup trucks, motorcycles and mules for transport and smartphones and radios for communications.
Col. Zau Raw, commander of the KIA in northern Shan State (full interview below), commented, "Their tactic is heavy artillery shell. A rain of shells, storming shells. After this bombardment, their human wave follows." This approach was effective in taking command bases in the northern Shan State, forcing the KIA into mobile warfare in that area -- which still leaves major roads and other infrastructure such as the China petroleum pipeline project, as targets for KIA guerrilla attack. In Kachin State as well, roads, bridges and the Mandalay-Myitkyina railway line have been effectively blocked or sabotaged by the KIA. A KIA blockade of supply routes for the controversial Myitsone dam had de facto shut the project down before the Burmese government announced the suspension of the dam project in late September 2011, following a groundswell of protest within Burma about the potential effects of the dam on the entire Irrawaddy River watershed.
The KIA, well funded by a war chest from taxes on jade and other city/town businesses, and the sale of hydropower to the city of Myitkyina, had begun manufacturing and stockpiling its own weapons in advance of the current conflict. It also captured considerable quantities of arms and ammunition during the fighting. While the KIA considered its own light weapons superior to those used by the Tatmadaw, the Burma government forces had advantages in its arsenal including heavy artillery (reportedly with Chinese military advisors) and aircraft. According to Col. Zau Raw, "When they attacked the 9th Battalion headquarters, they used the Chinese artillery. At that time the Chinese from China came to manage and handle this." As of early December 2011, aircraft had only been used for medevac and some troop transport by Burma government forces, according to KIA sources.
KIA soldiers have been injured by the Tatmadaw's use of landmines. The KIA has claimed that the Tatmadaw deployed mortar shells containing chemical agents against the KIA at Lungzep Kawng (Waimaw Township) and N'tap Bum (Momauk Township) causing "dizziness, gastric problems, a lot of coughing and blistering skin", with several soldiers hospitalized. Chemical samples from the explosion site and affected soldiers were being tested to determine the type of weapon used. The rain-like appearance of spots of yellow material was reported in the Mai Ja Yang area from November 20-23, 2011, and in Myitkyina a few days later. Attempts to test the composition of the yellow material were underway as of early December 2011.
The KIO adamantly denied any involvement in bomb blasts which killed civilians in Myitkyina on November 13 and 29. A few Kachin villages were reportedly burned by the Tatmadaw, including Nan San Yang in Waimaw district. The Kachin Women's Association Thailand documented over 30 instances of rape and gang rape by Tatmadaw troops in the Kachin conflict area, and international NGOs including Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Partners Relief and Development, and Physicians for Human Rights, have reported numerous cases of torture, mutilation and summary execution of civilians, including children, by Burma government forces in the north.
Although the rank and file KIA soldiers had for the most part grown up during the ceasefire period without combat experience, they appeared to acquit themselves in battle as well as their predecessors. "We don't worry much about the fighting skills of the Kachin youths, because we have very good foundation and we have laid the foundation for them," Col. Zau Raw commented. The soldiers appeared highly motivated to fight for what was viewed in the KIO area as a "revolution" necessary for protection of their rights. "I was glad to fight again," a 25 year old corporal in the 23rd Battalion said, "I thought we should do it. Even when we had peace, we didn't get anything, so I am glad to have this opportunity. For a peaceful country, we are sacrificing our peaceful life now for that. It is why we are willing to sacrifice our life for the revolution. Our goal is just what we should have, everyone knows we need to get back our state." Women soldiers in a guard unit spoke of their hopes for "a free independent nation" and "a peaceful country." As of early December 2011, KIA women soldiers were not in combat roles, but did serve as medics on the frontlines.
For the KIO political leadership, freedom continued to mean autonomy within a federal Burma rather than complete independence. Provocations which had led to the war (although a KIA source commented that "This was all started by one stupid guy, Burma's Northern Commander Zeyar Aung") included chiefly the demand that the KIO be subsumed into the Tatmadaw as a Border Guard Force (BGF), and the despoiling of the Irrawaddy River confluence above Myitkyina by the Myitsone dam project. By late November 2011, the Myitsone dam construction had been suspended with the implication of permanent abandonment of the project, and the BGF demand had been dropped for ceasefire groups including the neighboring United Wa State Army (UWSA). The KIO had set key demands including a pullback of Burma government forces to where they had been before June 2011, peace talks with all armed ethnic groups (particularly within the framework of the United Nationalities Federal Council), and moving swiftly into actual political dialogue about the status of the ethnic areas.
In late November 2011, the Burma government actually began to initiate simultaneous meetings with armed ethnic groups. According to Gen. Gun Maw, head of the KIO's Foreign Affairs Department as well as vice chairman of the KIA, "In the past 17 years of experience, in that period, we just got the ceasefire, and on the government's explanation, the ceasefire meant peace for them. The solution for them. That's why we are asking them, we said, the conflict in burma is the problem of the political approach. That's why to solve the problem, we need to discuss politics. So far now, even though we are fighting each other, we always try to communicate with them. By means of correspondence, by means of telephone, and a couple of days ago, we sent some of our delegates to meet with Gen. Aung Min [Railways minister, ex-general] in Thailand." That meeting was followed by a meeting in Ruili, China between KIO Chairman Zawng Hra and a Burma government delegation. The closed door Ruili meeting appeared more acrimonious than conciliatory on the part of the KIO, who had been particularly offended by a remark by Burma's President Thein Sein at a November 18, 2011 ASEAN press conference, claiming that his army could "annihilate" the KIO/KIA "within a day."
While the government of Burma under President Thein Sein gave signs of groundbreaking openness to reform -- allowing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to run for office, loosening controls on the press, labor and protests, responding to the Myitsone dam concerns and putting a stop to environmentally harmful gold mining in the northern rivers -- the brutal warfare in the ethnic regions continued, with violence against civilians, especially women and girls, by the Tatmadaw unabated. A week without rape in the conflict zones would be as meaningful a signal of the Burma government's positive intentions as any of the reforms it has implemented so far.
The constant human rights violations by the Tatmadaw have kept ethnic peoples and their leaders deeply mistrustful of the Burma government. In particular, the KIO, which had been quite trusting during the ceasefire period, now view the Burma government as determined to grab and exploit the north's land and resources by trying to crush the resistance militarily. Gen. Gun Maw commented, "The first thing is that in order to solve the problem in Burma we have to go the parallel approach. Democratizing and ethnic issues. If the ethnic issues are omitted in this process and democratizing is prioritized this time, the government of Burma can become stronger, financially and politically. On the other hand, this government will continue to suppress the ethnic people, for example it's like Suharto's government in Indonesia. Their final intention for ethnic peoples is the disarmament. If the disarmament happens, for them it means peace, the solution. But we cannot trust just disarmament, that's why we are always pushing them to have the political dialogue. But no result for us."
In late November, 2011, the KIA's top echelons appeared confident that the Tatmadaw could be held off and KIO territory protected. However, geopolitical forces were at work, with China constantly holding the upper hand, particularly in regards to the IDP burden, and the China petroleum pipeline headed into KIO territory. From June through November, the KIA appeared reluctant to widen the war to other parts of Kachin State such as the Hukawng Valley and India border, or to engage the vulnerable people of Myitkyina and Bhamo in outright resistance like strikes and boycotts. But in early December, the conflict did appear to be spreading, with new clashes reported north and west of Myitkyina.
At the six month mark, the human toll of the conflict in northern Burma had begun to get attention from newly emboldened civil society elsewhere in the country, as relief supplies were brought from Rangoon and Mandalay to IDPs in Myitkyina and Bhamo, and a Peace Committee formed by Bauk Ja, a Kachin political activist, was calling for a halt to Tatmadaw troop buildups in the northern conflict zone and for relief access to the IDPs on the China border.
In late November, 2011, a wedding was held in Laiza for a female KIA medical corps captain and a male KIA captain, in a hall decorated with elaborate floral arrangements. The bride wore a peach-colored dress. The couple had kept putting off their wedding, waiting for the situation -- the war -- to change, but had decided to go ahead with it, since it looked like war would be the reality for Laiza for the foreseeable future. The Kachins were adjusting to a "new normal", the state of revolutionary warfare that the wedding couple's parents and grandparents had grown up with. In Laiza's public library, the founder said that, having packed up the whole collection to evacuate the town and then unpacked it, next time he would only take the more valuable books. At a Thanksgiving service at Laiza's Baptist church, the harvest bounty, which in years past would provide a feast for the congregation, was being sent to the frontline to feed the troops. In Jeyang Hka camp, IDP children from remote mountain farms were learning to speak Chinese. The Kachin revolutionaries were in it for the long haul. But still, peace could break out at any time.
SUGGESTED INFORMATION SOURCES:
Relief Action Network for IDP and Refugee (RANIR)
Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT)
Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN)
Kachin News Group
PROJECT MAJE INTERVIEW WITH GENERAL GUN MAW, KACHIN INDEPENDENCE ARMY VICE CHIEF OF STAFF AND HEAD OF THE KACHIN INDEPENDENCE ORGANIZATION'S FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT, NOVEMBER 21, 2011, AT LAIZA
Q: Because it has been 6 months of fighting, what are the challenges?
A: The conflict started June 9th and now its been almost 6 months. Actually
we wanted to solve the problem by political means, but this political way of resolution is not open to us, that's why we are still holding the defensive warfare. The time of fighting is increasing from month to month. Within October one month, there were about 180 of these clashes. Likewise in November, over 100 of these fightings. During these battles, the government are using the infantry divisions. Usually these infantry divisions are used to defend against foreign invasion. So that means they are fighting us like a foreign invasion.
Q: Would you characterize this as defensive warfare, or guerrilla, mobile?
A: We use a combination of defensive line and mobile guerrilla warfare.
We use tactics depending on the situation or the geography or the terrain. For the whole country, for the whole area, our overall strategy is
the defensive situation, but later we use some guerrilla tactics.
Q: Up to now the fighting has been on the east. Is there any consideration of pushing the conflict further out?
A: The Burmese government also cannot spread their troops into other areas, they have to concentrate on this area. And also on the other hand, since the beginning of the conflict, they lose their face in front of the Chinese authorities. They want to reclaim, so they want to concentrate there.
Q: Is the [China] pipeline project considered an intrusion in KIA territory?
A: We have discussed about this pipeline project but we don't make any
decision about that. Because it is not yet active in our area. And also even
though it crosses in our area it is just a very short term crossing. But we're
still watching about this, the progress of it, and we are discussing about this.
Q: Your neighbors the Wa -- do you consider them neutral?
A: Their interest, their destination is different than us. Because they
transformed from communist to now they are a national [ethnic] organization. Actually they are a friendly organization, they are not likely to fight against us.
Q: What would be your message to the outside world?
A: The first thing is that in order to solve the problem in Burma we have to
go the parallel approach. Democratizing and ethnic issues. If the ethnic issues are omitted in this process and democratizing is prioritized this time, the government of Burma can become stronger, financially and politically. On the other hand, this government will continue to suppress the ethnic people, for example it's like Suharto's government in Indonesia. Their final intention for ethnic peoples is the disarmament. If the disarmament happens, for them it means peace, the solution. But we cannot trust just disarmament, that's why we are always pushing them to have the political dialogue. But no result for us.
In the past 17 years of experience, in that period, we just got the ceasefire, and on the government's explanation, the ceasefire meant peace for them. The solution for them. That's why we are asking them , we said, the conflict in burma is the problem of the political approach. That's why to solve the problem, we need to discuss politics. So far now, even though we are fighting each other, we always try to communicate with them. By means of correspondence, by means of telephone, and a couple of days ago, we sent some of our delegates to meet with Gen. Aung Min [Railways minister, ex-general] in Thailand. We are just trying to let them know that we are struggling for, we are demanding for ethnic equal rights and democracy and real federalism. We are not trying to be separated from this union.
Q: [The KIO] lost forests during the ceasefire, and minerals. Are you trying to protect resources for the future?
A: We have been trying to protect all these resources for a long time but
since we are the revolutionary group we can not work on it very effectively ,
successfully. We lost a lot of our natural resources, like the wood,
forests and jade mines, they are almost gone now. When we speak about the
Myitsone dam, we objected to this project because we need to preserve, protect the environment, the land. But on the other hand, the government says we are disturbing the national interest. That's why we lost a lot of unrenewable resources from our land. That will never come back again.
PROJECT MAJE INTERVIEW WITH COLONEL ZAU RAW, COMMANDER OF KIA IN NORTHERN SHAN STATE, NOVEMBER 20, 2011, AT LAIZA
Q: The borders of what you're holding, has it changed since June?
A: Four, five, six places, we lost. Had to withdraw from there. Formerly this was the headquarters of the 4th Brigade. Now the Burmese troops have already arrived in this area but we still, our troops are still scattered in
Q: Neighboring this is all ceasefire?
A: Kokang. Wa. Some SSA -- they are alliance troops existing around there, active around there. So we are staying here together with SSA in this area.
Q: The enemy troops, are they based out of Lashio?
A: Northeastern Command headquarters are based in Lashio.
Q: When they're fighting you, they're attacking from Lashio, Hsenwi, going north?
A: Yes. Only.
Q: How many enemy troops?
A: 18 battalions and now they stay 12 battalions.
Q: Has there been any attempt to negotiate in your area?
A: No. they never negotiated, they never proposed ceasefire talks, they just
ordered us to be local militia.
Q: How long has the fighting been going on in the 4th Brigade area?
A: Around about 22, 23 July. On the 24th the fighting became intensified.
Q: How did it start?
A: They attacked two ways, to the 2nd Battalion and 9th Battalion. They
launched two operational fronts at the same time. After one week they
attacked the 3rd Brigade command center headquarters. Now there's fighting spread throughout the whole region, but we didn't reach to the south. The 9th Battalion [headquarters] fell on 25 July. And the 2nd Battalion [headquarters] fell on 26 July.
Q: Would you characterize it after that as more like a guerrilla operation?
A: After they defeated this 2nd Battalion, we once tried to recapture this one. But more troops came to attack this Battalion so we dispersed again.
We recaptured this 2nd Battalion [headquarters] for two times since that. But we cannot control it for a long time, because they have a lot more troops. Their tactic is heavy artillery shell. A rain of shells, storming shells. After this bombardment, their human wave follows.
Q: Have they used any aircraft in your area?
Q: Are there major roads?
A: Their main road. Namkham to Namtu, Lashio. The gas pipeline. Their major route, this highway and there are many smaller roads. The gas pipeline diverges from the main road at Hsipaw and it goes up between Namtu and Lashio and then it reaches to Namkham. The gas pipeline crosses the Palaung area and SSA area and also KIO area. Now the gas pipeline reached here [southeastern border of KIO area]. Because of the conflict now they cannot reach into the upper area. They have already transported these construction materials to this area. They have not yet constructed, but just sent the materials.
Q: Are you able to disrupt the traffic on the roads?
A: Yes, partially we can block this, we are not blocking the whole time but we can disturb it. At many spots. Any time we wish to, we can. Because this is a trade road, we don't want to disturb the civilian purposes. So activities when they transport the civilian goods we just let them go. If it's something related to military supply, we disturb this. So now our troops are located very close to this main transport road. So now we already guarded this between Muse and Namkham, it is just a very short travel but they cannot move very freely.
Q: Do they use Chinese weapons against you?
A: When they attacked the 9th Battalion headquarters, they used
the Chinese artillery. At that time the Chinese from China came to
manage and handle this. The neighboring civilian villagers saw this incident
that the Chinese themselves came.
More interesting events in this area is that there are a lot of opium farms in this area. Actually we KIO have an intensive campaign against the opium cultivation, but there are a lot of areas controlled by the SPDC militias and the government troops, where they let the farmers, the villagers grow, in some places they forced to grow, opium. But they are accusing us, they said, "Because of the existence of the KIO troops, in this northern Shan State there are a lot of opium farms." Actually every year we destroy over 500 acres of opium farms. But because most of the territory is controlled by the SPDC, the other local militias groups, we cannot penetrate to the area.
Just before this conflict started, the authorities, the military commanders and the local commanders, they announced, "This year you don't have to worry abut this KIO campaign, that's why you can grow opium freely this year." And they get, they charge 800,000 kyats for each village as a tax for opium cultivation. For some villagers, they don't want to grow the opium, because they are Christians, so they refuse to, but they force them. Whether you are Christian or not. Some people said "We are just a small village, we don't have many people and also we don't want to do this," but whether they grow or not, they have to pay. Because they are living in this area. The local militia takes 50,000 kyats for one acre of opium farm. Now it is growing. Harvest is around February, March, April. Now it grows knee-high.
Q: Are they refining it in this area?
A: Not only heroin refinery, opium refinery, also there are a lot of yaba [amphetamine]. Almost every village controlled by the local militias, they have small scale refineries. Even though we know the situation of these refineries, we cannot capture these refineries because they are under protection of the SPDC soldiers.
They make this opium farm going on, because this is a blaming point, they blame the KIO: "Because this KIO are growing opium, we are attacking this." They announce that. They also said this to China, to the Chinese authorities. In that sense, they can attack KIO. That's why the Chinese government are just wait and see for this. The military side, the army gets money for taxation of the farming, they control the most part of the production. But the police force, they tax from the trade, the opium trade.
Q: What's the most recent military action in the area?
A: Now they are attacking us in this area, a region close to the China border. Most of our troops are along there, so the Burmese troops penetrate in this area. They are launching the campaign in this area. Now we are expecting three major operations in this area. They will launch columns from four directions. From the northwest, from the west, two from the south. We are expecting the severe heavy fighting now.
Q: Are they trying to take away another area?
A: There is nowhere to take. Because our command post, command office are moving from place to place.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like people to know about your area?
A: Even though geographically it is called Shan State, our 4th Brigade area is inside the Shan State. This is the place where the KIO, KIA revolution started. The KIO was formed in this area, Shan State, and the KIO revolution spread to Kachin State from this area. Birthplace of the KIO revolution. And despite the hardship as we are fighting, we are trying to withstand this hardship in the area, because the local inhabitants, the
local people are supporting us. They love us, so they are supporting us. That's why we are fighting for the people inside this northern Shan State.
Q: Your fighters are a new generation that didn't have combat experience -- how are they doing?
A: We don't worry much about the fighting skills of the Kachin youths, because we have very good foundation and we have laid the foundation for them, that's why the new generation can step on this basic foundation and they can go forward.
NEWS ARTICLES, RESOURCE COMPILATION, AUGUST-DECEMBER 2011
1. WAR IN THE NORTH
2. HUMAN RIGHTS
3. IDPS AND REFUGEES
4. DAMS, PIPELINE AND GOLD
1. WAR IN THE NORTH
Police Killed in Kachin Rocket Attack
Democratic Voice of Burma. Aug. 3, 2011
Up to six policemen and two civilians were killed in southern Kachin state yesterday evening after their vehicle was hit by an RPG as it returned from the site of a major Chinese-backed hydropower project.
The policemen had been escorting the two civilians, believed to be electricians, through Bhamo district, which borders China. That region has experienced heavy fighting over the past two months.
The vehicle had reportedly been sent to fix air-conditioning units at the Taping dam site. "They went to fix the air-con yesterday and headed back to Bhamo in a jeep in the evening," said a resident of the town. All on board are believed killed.
He speculated that the attack came from the Kachin Independence Arrmy (KIA), which has been battling Burmese troops in Bhamo and across the northern state, although this has not been confirmed.
The man added that Kachin state's deputy police commander was among the victims, but this has also not been independently verified.
The Kachin News Group reports however that no civilians were on board, but that the jeep carried military personnel, policemen and Burmese intelligence agents.
Several instances of violence have been linked with the Taping dam, which is financed by the China Datang Corporation. In June a number of Chinese workers were temporarily trapped inside the site after fighting erupted around them, while the KIA the same month blew up a key bridge close to the dam.
The construction of the dam several years ago was, like many of the foreign-backed infrastructural and energy projects in Kachin state, met with heavy civilian and armed resistance. Much of the recent fighting in Kachin state has occurred near to dam sites, the security of which some claim is a main thrust behind the Burmese army's attempts to rout the KIA.
The RRG attack coincided with the second day of meetings between regional government officials and the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), in the town of Lajaryang town.
Lajaryang lies in between Bhamo and the Kachin capital of Myitkyina – the main highway linking the two towns has seen sporadic bursts of fighting since June.
Both sides have said they want a ceasefire, despite fighting continuing across the state. The KIA had maintained a 17-year truce with the government until the fighting began on 9 June, following its refusal to become a Border Guard Force.
Ethnic Militia Challenges Burma's Army, New Government
Voice of America. Aug. 11, 2011
Deadly clashes continue in Northern Burma
The Irrawaddy, Aug. 25, 2011
Despite Burmese President Thein Sein's recent call for peace talks, deadly clashes continue to flare between government forces and armed ethnic Kachin rebels in the country's troubled north.
On Wednesday, the 10,000-strong Kachin Independent Army (KIA) engaged the Burmese army in hostilities which left three government soldiers dead in an area called Namphatkar, between Kutkai and Muse townships in Shan State.
The KIA seized a number of small arms from the government troops, according to Col. Zau Raw, the Shan State regional commander of the KIA.
He said that the deadly confrontation flared following the government's deployment of troops in the area to protect convoys of military trucks -- which Naypyidaw bought from China's Yunnan province in July -- travelling from the Sino-Burmese border.
A day earlier, on Tuesday, low-intensity fighting broke out between the two sides in Hpakant Township in Kachin State, said a KIA official who said that further details were not yet known.
Armed clashes have been frequent between the KIA and the Burmese army since early June in Shan and Kachin states, many of the skirmishes erupting near the Tapaing hydropower plant built by China on a tributary of the Irrawaddy River. The hostilities bring to an end a 17-year ceasefire and take the northern Burmese region to the verge of a civil war. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced due to the fighting, and the hydropower plant has been shut down.
In discussions with Naypyidaw, the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has demanded that the government open an inclusive political dialogue with all armed ethnic groups based on the pre-independence 1947 Panglong Agreement which guaranteed ethnic minorities basic autonomy in a federal state -- a promise that never materialized.
But Naypyidaw has insisted that the KIA joins a border guard force under the central command of the Burmese army, and that the KIO participate in the national political process under the terms of the 2008 Constitution drafted by the previous military regime.
While a renewed ceasefire remains inconclusive, the Burmese president recently referred to the KIA as "a mere insurgent group," which is not representative of people in Kachin State, a statement that infuriated the Kachin rebel leaders.
Earlier this week, the government asked many of the armed ethnic groups to conduct preliminary peace talks with regional and provincial governments, saying that only after such measures had been taken would further discussions with the central government in Naypyidaw be offered.
On Monday, Thein Sein told parliament that the government will strive to reduce conflicts with armed ethnic groups and opposition forces which have not accepted the Constitution.
The hostilities in northern Burma continue despite Thein Sein's meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last Friday in Naypyidaw, which generated optimism among the opposition groups that the government was moving toward political and economic reforms.
Zau Raw said that ceasefire efforts have become increasingly difficult despite these apparent "olive branches" offered by the government which, in reality, continues to impose the Constitution upon the ethnic groups, including the KIA.
"We want to hold discussions based on the 1947 Panglong Agreement, but they want us to accept the 2008 Constitution," he said. "Also, we want to hold discussions with the central government, not with a regional assembly."
The US administration has said that the Burmese government must release all political prisoners in Burma, start a dialogue with opposition groups including Suu Kyi, and end human rights violations and military attacks against ethnic minorities before it considers lifting its punitive economic sanctions against the Southeast Asian nation.
KIO Rebels Free Prisoners from Burmese Labour Camp
Mizzima. Sept. 23, 2011
Thomas Maung Shwe
More than 50 prisoners from a Burmese prison labour camp in northern Shan State were set free by soldiers from the Kachin Impendence Organization on Wednesday in a dramatic demonstration of the organization's strength.
This was the first time the KIO had freed prisoners from a prison camp since a 16-year cease-fire between Burma's second largest armed group and the central government fell apart earlier this year.
While the KIO took credit for Burma's largest prison break in nearly two decades, the freeing of prisoners from the Shwe Pyi Thit, labour camp was not the KIO's original intention.
According to a KIO spokesman, soldiers from the 4th brigade of the 9th Battalion were passing near the camp when prison guards shot at them, forcing the Kachin rebels to respond. The spokesman said that the exchange of fire was brief. Apparently, the guards fled when they realized they were outnumbered, leaving behind dozens of emaciated prisoners.
A spokesman at the KIO's headquarters in Laiza told Mizzima that 16 of the prisoners freed were army conscripts who were arrested after deserting. Another two prisoners were KIO members jailed for their political affiliation. The remaining prisoners, estimated at 37, mostly consisted of individuals convicted for minor crimes such as theft and illegal money trading. The KIO would provide more details of the health condition of the prisoners once information has been relayed from the frontline, said the spokesman.
Located in northern Shan State south of the border city of Muse, the Shwe Pyi Thit labour camp is one of numerous labour camps located in remote corners of Burma. While this is first time this year the KIO is known to have freed prisoners from a labour camp, it is not a first for the KIO. Prior to signing a cease-fire with the Burmese regime in 1994, the organization participated in several major prison breaks during its three-decade uprising against the Burmese regime.
Burma's most famous prison break occurred shortly after Independence when in early 1949 Karen rebels led by Saw Ba U Gyi freed hundreds of prisoners from the country's largest jail located in Insein, during a Karen National Union's 112-day siege of the Rangoon suburb.
Burmese Government Offensive Prevents Halt to Fighting: KIO
Mizzima. Sept. 26, 2011
Fresh fighting between more than 800 Burmese government soldiers and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) troops started four days ago during a government offensive, making it difficult to achieve a cease-fire agreement, according to KIO spokesman La Nang. "To stop the fighting now is not easy. As long as their troops are in the area, there is a serious possibility of a civil war. The fighting in the area of our Brigade No. 4 has occurred because of the government offensive," La Nang told Mizzima.
Burmese government troops fired 120 mm, 150 mm, 81 mm and 75 mm mortars into KIO bases. The KIO responds by using guerilla tactics. In the fighting in Muse and Kutkai areas in Shan State, at least 100 government soldiers have died and about 50 are injured, according to La Nang. He said one KIO military officer died and two KIO soldiers were injured.
A total of more than 800 Burmese soldiers from battalions under the Northeast Command including Infantry Units No. 45, 68, 69, 144 and 290 and Light Infantry Units No. 522, 502 and 507 under the Military Operations Command and Division 99 are aligned against KIO battalions No. 2, 8 and 9 under Brigade No. 4, La Nang said.
La Nang said that although the KIO wanted to hold a political cease-fire dialogue, the government's fresh offensive showed that it wanted to use military ways to solve political problems and its actions are different from a statement by President Thein Sein regarding peace talks.
"If they threaten the KIO with military offensive to solve political problems, we cannot accept it. If they go on like this, it will be very unlikely for us to hold peace talks. The fighting does not seem to end. The war may be rather long," La Nang said.
He said that fighting continued in the areas of Manjay village in Kutkai Township and Dmar, Huphyat and Datnine in Muse Township and Monton Township, which are KIO-held areas.
On Sunday, villagers from 10 villages in Muse and Kutkai townships started moving to the Sino-Burmese border area because of the renewed fighting. The exact number of refugees and their location is not unknown.
Moreover, on Saturday, KIO Battalion No. 16 under Brigade No. 3 and the government's Infantry Unit No. 341 fired at each other near Lweje near the Sino-Burmese border, causing some residents to evacuate to China.
Meanwhile, since August, the KIO has blocked traders who supply construction material from China for the Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River from sending cement supplies to the area, forcing a halt to the dam construction work. However, now the government is buying cement from shops in Myitkyina, according to KIO, and the work may be restarted.
Four Days of Heavy Fighting in Northern Burma
The Irrawaddy. Sept. 26, 2011
The civil war in northern Burma intensified over the last four days as heavy fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) raged across northern Shan State from Friday morning.
The Burmese military reportedly used 17 battalions and an artillery regiment -- totaling 1,000 troops in all -- to attack KIA strongholds in areas near the towns of Kutkai, Muse, Hseni, Kunglong and Namtu in regions by the Chinese border.
"Intense fighting is still going on and the government is using heavy artillery. We were forced to evacuate some of our controlled areas," said Col Zau Raw, the military commander of KIA forces in Shan State. He added that more than a 1,000 of his troops have been engaged in defensive guerrilla warfare against government attacks.
The official claimed that the government army has suffered more than 100 casualties while a KIA officer was killed and a few others wounded during the latest fighting. He also revealed that another local armed ethnic group, the Shan State Army, also fought alongside the KIA against the government's military offensive.
The recent fighting has been the most intense since clashes first broke out near the Chinese-built hydropower plants in Bhamo Township, Kachin State, in June which ended a 17-year ceasefire, according to KIA officials.
Efforts by both sides to renew the ceasefire agreement have failed with the government rejecting KIA demands for an all-inclusive political dialogue between ethnic armed groups and Naypyidaw.
The military objective of the offensive remains unclear, but KIA spokesman La Nan believes that the government intends to weaken Kachin forces to get an upper hand in future rounds of negotiations.
The construction of China's strategic oil pipeline from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province will pass through the current conflict zones in northern Shan State, and so the recent fighting has created uncertainties for the project's future.
"The government may claim that its military objective is to establish security in current conflict areas where China's pipeline will pass through. But we are not against the pipeline construction project, regarding which we talked with the government about shared security arrangements." "But now, in this kind of situation, we can say that any hope for this pipeline construction has finished," the KIA spokesman said.
Since late 2009, Naypyidaw has demanded that the KIA transform into a border guard force which will be run under the commander of the government army. But the ethnic armed group rejected the plan which resulted in the collapse of the ceasefire between the two sides.
The instability has also much to do with Chinese investments in the region, since the latest fighting comes after a warning by the KIA that the construction of China's controversial 6,000-mega watt hydropower Myitsone Dam Project in Kachin State would spark a civil war.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, the KIA's political wing of the Kachin Independence Organization called for the international community to step in and help stop the civil war and achieve national reconciliation. "Actions towards the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam construction will be key for the future of harmony in our lands. Throughout our successive governments, there have been policies that monopolized our nation's natural resources. These policies were formed without consultation of the local people, much like the cultural heritage issues of our regions," it said. Since last week, the KIA has blocked the transportation of construction materials for the dam project from China's border.
These latest clashes have forced some local people to flee to other townships in this strategically important region near the Sino-Burmese border.
The fighting comes despite the nominally civilian government in Naypyidaw offering peace talks with armed ethnic groups and adopting a range of tentative economic and political reforms. However, skeptics describe the moves as still lacking in substantive progress.
The KIO Prison Break Out
Mizzima. Sept. 26, 2011
Fifty-five prisoners in a Burmese government labour camp in Muse in northern Shan State were set free by soldiers of the Kachin Impendence Organization 4th Brigade of the 9th Battalion on Wednesday. According to KIO spokesman La Nang, soldiers were passing near the Shwe Pyi Thit labour camp when prison guards shot at them, forcing the Kachin rebels to respond. The incident occurred on September 21 (the International Day of Peace). Meanwhile, the Burmese government is preparing a major offensive against the KIO. Mizzima reporter Phanida talked with La Nang about the incident and the government's offensive.
Question: The government labour camp where the prisoners were released has a varied history, correct?
Answer: Yes. It's a great distance from the headquarters of Battalion No. 9. After the cease-fire agreement was reached, they set up a drug rehabilitation centre in 2000. But after some officials there were changed, the drug rehabilitation camp was transformed into a labour camp.
Q: How many KIO soldiers participated in the raid?
A: About 20 soldiers of Battalion No. 9 under Brigade No. 4.
Q: How many armed guards of the government were at the labour camp?
A: We don't know how many there were. But, when our troops besieged them, we saw only people's militia and police. They fled. Eight armed guards left. The eight armed guards including a two-star police chief, Aye Than, surrendered. So without firing a shot, we entered the camp. Then we opened the doors and released the prisoners.
Q: How many prisoners were freed?
A: We don't know exactly how many prisoners there were in the camp. But, we counted 55 prisoners.
Q: What type of prisoners are among the 55 prisoners?
A: There were two prisoners who were related to the KIO. I don't know whether one was a KIO member or a former member. It's a frontline area and our soldiers have not arrived back here. So, all we know are some facts we gathered on the phone. Sixteen prisoners were deserters who left the government army because they said officers tortured them. Some of the prisoners were arrested as suspects in trading illegal drugs. A few prisoners were arrested for using illegal drugs. Some were arrested for causing road accidents.
Q: What were you able to learn about the conditions within the prison?
A: Prisoners in all prisons across Burma suffer from malnutrition. Their health is ruined. Many suffer from fever. All we know via the phone is that they were in bad physical condition
Q: What was the nature of the release of the prisoners?
A: In the camp, we asked them questions and made a list of names and other information. Then we talked with them about what we would do. We released the eight policemen. Then we withdrew from the labour camp. We did not destroy the camp. But we seized eight guns from the police.
Q: You said that really you had no plans to raid the labour camp? The release actually came about by accident, didn't it?
A: When our troops were passing near the labour camp the police threatened us. In fact, if the government's security police did not shoot, we had no plan to release the prisoners. But they started shooting, that's why we responded against them. They shot at us because they knew that we were soldiers. So around 1 p.m. we besieged the camp and then the police fled.
If we hadn't raided the camp to release the prisoners, we would have been irresponsible. But if they hadn't shot at us, there would have been no reason to go into the camp.
Q: Have you ever freed inmates of a government prison before?
A: Since the previous cease-fire, this is the first time we have freed prisoners. The focus of our fighting is on the government army.
Q: Have you got a list that mentions where the prisoners came from?
A: We will get the list within a few days. Now government troops are being deployed near the Battalion 9 base.
Right now, the government Light Infantry Unit No. 568 and Infantry units No. 290 and 241 under the Lashio-based Northeast Command have been deployed in the area. I think there are about 200 soldiers. And we heard that some government battalions have been deployed from Kutkai and Tamongnye Road. We heard that they have about 50 horses. So, if it's true that have brought horses, it's likely that they are preparing to launch a military offensive.
Q: Where did the latest fighting take place?
A: From Lashio, government troops launched a military offensive. They have a plan to launch offensives in the area of Battalion No. 9. So we have seen fighting along a frontline of the Battalion No. 9 area. I don't know the number of casualties.
Q: Regarding the raid on the labour camp, did the Burmese government contact you in any way?
A: The government has not contacted us. According to information we received today, police from relevant departments are removing their property from the camp. I think it is likely that they will close the camp.
Q: What else transpired in regard to the prisoners?
A: We counseled the prisoners. The KIO told them that it would release them although it knew that they were guilty. We told them that they should work for the stability of the state as much as they can. I was told the prisoners responded gratefully and returned to their family or hometown.
Kachin Rebels Under Heavy Govt Army Bombardment
The Irrawaddy. Sept. 27, 2011
Incessant barrages of heavy artillery fire by Burmese government troops on Monday evening have forced Kachin Independence Army (KIA) forces in northern Shan State to withdraw their military bases.
More than 1,000 government troops have been involved in the ongoing military onslaught since Friday. The KIA's two battalions reportedly lost their bases on Monday, which are located between Muse and Kutakai towns close to the Sino-Burmese border.
The KIA has an estimated 10,000 troops with 4,000 of them based in northern Shan State. The government's military offensive against the KIA --under the direct command of military regional commander Maj-Gen Aung Kyaw Zaw -- has raged for five days without any signs of abating.
In its Tuesday offensive which began at 8 am, hundreds of Burmese Army soldiers opened a three frontal attack against a strategic mountain called "Chan Shin" which was held by KIA forces headquartered in Loikang, near Kutkai.
Col. Zau Raw, commander of KIA forces in northern Shan State, told The Irrawaddy that the government army has been using 105mm artillery and is trying to seize their military stronghold in Loikang. "The KIA has occupied all the strategic locations in the area and instead of directly confronting the Burmese Army forces, we are launching counter guerrilla attacks and also using heavy weapons," he said. He added that refugees fleeing the conflict were prevented from crossing the Sino-Burmese border by Chinese authorities, but The Irrawaddy cannot independently verify this report.
The KIA official revealed that three KIA soldiers have been killed since Friday and a number have also been wounded. But the number of government casualties remains unknown with Burmese state-run media neglecting to mention the fighting until Tuesday.
The current conflict is the most intense since the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire agreement between the two sides in June when fighting broke out near Chinese-built hydropower plants in Bhamo Township of Kachin State. This followed the KIA's outright rejection of the government's border guard force (BGF) plan under the new civilian administration which took office in March this year.
During two following rounds of peace talks, the government offered the 10,000-strong KIA a chance to renew the 1994 ceasefire agreement but rejected their demands for a political dialogue between all armed ethnic forces and Naypyidaw.
Sporadic fighting between the two sides has continued in different parts of Kachin and Shan states since then. The KIA has been fighting the Burmese government from 1961 until 1994 when a fragile ceasefire agreement was reached. It sought to guarantee regional development and offered political solutions for the KIA's demand for greater autonomy within a federal system, but this never materialized.
Kachin leaders rejected the current 2008 Constitution as they believe it failed to guarantee ethnic rights, and are currently asking Napyidaw for a political dialogue while expressing a lack of confidence regarding the government's recent tentative economic and political reforms. The government appears well prepared for the latest offensive against KIA troops as it has renewed a temporary ceasefire with the 20,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA) -- Burma's largest ethnic armed group -- in east of the country a few weeks ago. The UWSA also refused to accept the BGF plan.
Even though there has been no indication that the UWSA is providing military aid to the KIA in the latest fighting, another local armed group, the Shan State Army, is now fighting alongside KIA troops against the government army, KIA officials claim.
The fighting has forced the China-run hydropower plants in Bhamo Township to shut down and creates difficulties for other major Chinese investments. These include the controversial Myitsone Dam Project in Kachin State and a strategic oil pipeline passing from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province through central Burma and northern Shan State.
Asked if the Burmese authorities will be able to wipe out KIA forces in Shan State, Zau Raw said, "No, No. That will be impossible. We have been fighting this war for over 50 years with guerrilla tactics and we are still using this same method." "Heavy clashes have broken out across the region and our policy is to continue to defend our areas by guerrilla warfare."
Protracted shelling unnerves Kachin army
Democratic Voice of Burma. Sept. 27, 2011
Four days of heavy shelling by Burmese troops against Kachin forces in the country's northeast has prompted the rebel group to relocate non-combatants to safer areas and send all its soldiers to the frontline.
The spokesperson of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), La Nan, said the group will "utilise guerrilla warfare tactics" in a bid to fend off the Burmese assault, which has seen around 1000 troops deployed to KIA territory in northern Shan state.
Two KIA bases have been vacated since the assault began on Friday in Muse, Kutkai and Man Tong townships. "It's quite intense fighting. The [Burmese army's] forces are exceeding 1000 troops and they are still reinforcing," said La Nan.
The current fighting marks some of the heaviest seen since clashes broke out between two sides in June, triggered largely the KIA's refusal to accede to demands to become a government-controlled Border Guard Force. The government is also keen to gain control of areas close to KIA territory that host lucrative hydropower projects.
The fighting has affected areas of northern Shan state and southern and central Kachin state where the KIA has a strong presence. Until June the opposition group had maintained a 17-year ceasefire with the central government.
The Kachin Women's Association Thailand reported yesterday that it has so far documented 37 cases of rape in areas of Kachin state where government troops are active. The group said it had counted 18 by the end of June, and feared the phenomenon, long derided by human rights groups as a "weapon of war" of the Burmese army, was escalating.
According to the KIA, the current offensive is being directly supervised by Lieutenant General Soe Win, the Burmese military's second-ranking official, and the Northeastern Regional Military Command. It pre-empted the army's quarterly meeting in Naypyidaw on Saturday last week.
Prior to the first wave of attacks on Friday, the KIA's Brigade 4 raided a police station in the Shan state town of Muse. It has also launched attacks on Burmese outposts in Lweje town and Singlun village tract in eastern Kachin state, while battles continue in Dawphonyan sub-township.
"Although [the government] is talking about political dialogue, the military can use military means to solve the problems," said La Nan. "Their aim is to conquer everything. I think the result of the quarterly meeting will be a war cry."
The political wing of the KIA, the Kachin Independence Organisation, recently sent a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon urging the body to mediate in the conflicts unfolding in Burma's border region.
The Burmese army is also battling opposition forces in Karen state and southern Shan state.
Kachin Rebels Lose Major Stronghold as Govt Army Advances
The Irrawaddy. Sept. 28, 2011
Civilians have fled in terror as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) loses its major stronghold in Burma's northern Shan State after a massive four-day military offensive by government troops.
The KIA Brigade 4 headquarters at Loikang, near Kutakai Township, fell into government hands at 6:30 pm on Tuesday evening after being relentlessly pounded "day and night" with heavy artillery fire on multiple fronts.
According to latest reports from frontline areas, both sides have thousands of soliders fighting and at least 15 battalions of the Burmese government army are relentlessly shelling rebel-controled areas with 120mm, 105mm and 80mm artillery fire.
"This stronghold is not of much strategic value and our battalions in the surrounding mountains remain as strong as before," said Col Zau Raw, commander KIA forces in northern Shan State.
The government army has also reportedly reinforced its troops in Myitkyina and Bhamo townships of Kachin State, indicating it will launch further military offensives towards KIA bases in the region. Some exchanges of fire were also reported between the two sides in areas near the KIA's main headquarters in Lazia, Kachin State, on Tuesday.
Government forces -- under the direct command of northeastern Shan State regional commander Maj-Gen Aung Kyaw Zaw -- seems determined to drive Kachin rebel troops out of Shan State and secure the economically and militarily strategic region near the Sino-Burmese border. China's major oil pipeline from the Bay of Begal to Yunnan Province will pass through central Burma and near the current conflict zones in Shan State.
Kachin rebels are relying on the mountainous terrain of both Kachin and northern Shan states where they have used guerrilla tactics to fight the Burmese government for greater autonomy since 1961.
The KIA has an estimated 10,000 troops with 4,000 of them under the command of KIA Brigade 4 based across northern Shan State. The KIA 9th and 2nd battalions under Brigade 4 already lost their bases to advancing government troops on Monday.
Zau Raw said that his troops were launching guerrilla counter attacks in a number of areas across northern Shan State as Burmese government troops advance. Both sides have not released the exact number of casualties suffered and the Burmese government's official media outlet is yet to comment on the latest fighting.
Thousands have already left the warzone and fled to safer areas, but there have been reports of the Burmese and Chinese authorities blocking refugees from crossing the border into China.
"Hundreds of civilians were seen fleeing in all directions to escape the bombardment. Thousands of displaced civilians are in dire need of humanitarian assistance from inside Burma and the outside world as they have been subject to investigation, rape, torture, extra-judicial execution and destruction of homes and communities," said KIA sources.
The current conflict is the most intense since the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire agreement between the two sides in June when fighting broke out near Chinese-built hydropower plants in Bhamo Township of Kachin State. This followed the KIA's outright rejection of the government's border guard force plan under the new civilian administration which took office in March this year.
During two following rounds of peace talks, the government offered the KIA a chance to renew the 1994 ceasefire agreement but rejected their demands for a political dialogue between all ethnic armed groups and Naypyidaw.
KIA officials have said that they are prepared to continue fighting as long as the Burmese government does not seek a political solution to the decades-old conflict.
This latest round of hostilities brings a sharp contrast to the rosy picture created by the nominally civilian government in Naypyidaw, which is adopting a range of tentative economic and political reforms and reaching out to the democratic opposition led by pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
China Not Happy with Kachins?
Shan Herald Agency for News. Oct. 4, 2011
Beijing may be angry with Naypyitaw for pulling out of the Myitsone hydropower project on the Irrawaddy, but it doesn't mean the opposition, especially the Kachin Independence Organization / Kachin Independence Army (KIO / KIA) will all of a sudden become its blue eyed boy, according to PaO leader Hkun Okker, who returned from the beleaguered Laiza headquarters on Sunday, 2 October. "First, they don't like the UNFC (United Nationalities Federal Council, the new coalition of armed ethnic groups formed in February) led by the Kachins," he said. "They think it's too pro-West."
"They (the Chinese officials I met) also asked me why Zawng Hra (KIO president) wrote to UN chief Ban Ki-moon about the armed conflict on the Sino-Kachin border (on 16 September). ‘What could Ban do what the Chinese couldn't do?' they said."
Several well-wishers have reportedly been urging the opposition, both armed and unarmed, to lobby the Chinese as well as the Russians, the two permanent UN Security Council (UNSC) members that have generally stood behind Naypyitaw on issues related to Burma.
On the other hand, the Chinese do not appear to be deliberately making it tough for the Kachins. A case in point is the thorny Kachin refugee issue that arose following the attack on the KIO / KIA in June. Tens of thousands of people fleeing from the conflict are finding it extremely difficult to seek sanctuary and relief assistance from China. "The Kachins should seek assistance from the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner on Refugees) instead, I was advised," said Hkun Okker. "Of course, China will not be the one to broach the subject. But if it is requested by the UNHCR, it will not object."
Hkun Okker said he had already conveyed the message to the Kachin leaders. Hkun Okker, 65, is the leader of the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO). He is also a constitutional consultant to several groups, including the Shan State Constitution Drafting Commission (SSCDC) and the UNFC. He had been on a 3 week visit to Laiza to hold discussions and workshops on the 2008 constitution and federalism.
Burmese Army Mounts Multi-front Offensive Against KIA
The Irrawaddy. Oct.17, 2011
Deadly armed clashes between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) continued in Kachin and Shan states on Monday, according to KIA officials who said they believe the latest military offensives by the government side are aimed at taking control of their major strongholds.
Since Thursday, fighting has been reported at a number of locations considered to be key defensive positions en route to Pajau and Laiza, the KIA's two most important bases of operations.
One focal point has been Lung Zep Kong, a hill near Waimaw Township in Kachin State that lies along the way to Pajau, while sporadic fighting has also been reported in the village of Nam Sen Yang in Kachin State and in Tamonye, near Kutkai Township in Shan State.
"Government troops have mounted three major assaults on this hill since Friday, the latest one this morning, when it sent a strong force of around 600 men in an effort to occupy it," said KIA Col Zau Raw, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday. "We believe that these military operations show they intend to occupy Pajau." he added.
According to KIA spokesman La Nan, fighting continued today at all three locations, with heavy casualties reported at Lung Zep Kong, most of them on the Burmese side, as the KIA mowed down soldiers ordered to take the hill.
"The government soldiers simply charged up the hill, leaving our soldiers with no option but to shoot them down," said La Nan, adding that there were at least 30 bodies scattered around the area following fighting over the weekend.
The KIA spokesman said that at least 82 armed clashes have taken place since June, when fighting broke out near Chinese-built hydropower plants in Bhamo Township, Kachin State, ending a 17-year-old ceasefire agreement between the two sides. Of these, 17 have occurred so far this month, he said.
Even before this incident, however, tension had been growing over the government's insistence that the 10,000-strong KIA join a Border Guard Force (BGF) under Burmese military command -- a demand the KIA rejected outright.
During two subsequent rounds of peace talks, the government offered the KIA a chance to renew the 1994 ceasefire agreement, but rejected the group's demands for a political dialogue between all ethnic armed groups and Naypyidaw.
The government has since then apparently shelved the controversial BGF plan, recently renewing temporary ceasefire agreements with the 20,000-strong United Wa State Army, the largest ethnic armed group in Burma, and another its much smaller ally, the Mongla group, based near the Chinese border.
Asked if the KIA would accept a ceasefire if government dropped the BGF demand, as it did with the UWSA, La Nan said the group would not accept another temporary ceasefire without achieving its political rights.
With much of the recent fighting taking place near the Sino-Burmese border, there have been reports that hundreds of Chinese army troops have been stationed along the border to prevent an influx of refugees and to maintain control over Chinese territory.
More Government Troops Deployed Around Laiza
Mizzima. Oct. 20, 2011
The Kachin Independence Organization has reported a build up of Burmese government troops around their headquarters in Laiza, in northern Kachin State.
KIO spokesman La Nang told Mizzima that government soldiers had deployed the area around Laiza with at least 16 battalions and that fighting in the area had intensified.
In an area 15 miles from Laiza near the Sino-Burmese border, military offensives have reportedly been launched by Infantry No. 40, 141, 142, 260, 37, 21 and Light Infantry No. 121, 381,383, 384, 388, 438, 290, 389 and 386 under the Burmese government's Northern Command, a total of about 1,000 Burmese soldiers.
On Wednesday, 10 battles between government troops and Kachin forces broke out around Nam San Yang and Aung Ja Villages. Fighting was also reported between the two sides in Kutkai in neighbouring Shan State.
KIO military sources said the government deployed 500 soldiers from Bhamo by river and 100 soldiers from Myitkyina by train on Wednesday. The government also was reported to have deployed troops in Daw Pone Yan Township, bringing armoured cars and 120 mm and 150 mm recoiless canons.
Spokesman La Nang said they were not too worried. "We are not resisting in a [fixed] location or stronghold. There are our troops in Kachin State, Northern Shan State and [other] the areas where Kachin people live."
La Nang said it was impossible to root out the KIO completely. "We will resist against any government troops who enter our areas," he added.
Kachin Conflict Worsens, Civilians Trapped
Democratic Voice of Burma. Oct. 21, 2011
The bitter conflict engulfing Kachin state has escalated in the last two days, with claims from the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) that on Wednesday alone it clashed on 12 separate occasions with Burmese forces.
Various reports also claim that China has sent up to 2,000 troops along its side of the volatile border. La Nan, spokesperson of the KIA, said that the deployment was likely "to prevent the fights from spilling into their country". China is also known to be wary of a flood of refugees crossing the border to escape the escalated conflict.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 civilians have been displaced by fighting; of this number, only around 5,000 are being given assistance by government-approved aid agencies.
A Burmese assault on a KIA outpost near the China-backed Taping dam project in southern Kachin state in June broke a 17-year ceasefire between the two sides. Burmese troops have since made slow but steady progress as they head towards the KIA's headquarters in Laiza, southwest of the state capital, Myitkyina.
La Nan said that troops were approaching Laiza and were waging offensives around Waingmaw township, as well as using the road from Bhamo to send reinforcements to the region.
"Fighting near to the border with China is becoming more and more intense – [on Wednesday] alone we had 12 clashes with the Burmese army, and we assume that China is sending its troops to the border to prevent the fights from spilling into their country," said the La Nan from the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).
Aid workers in the region corroborated that fighting had escalated, and warned that the upsurge of violence this week had added complications for aid distribution, with outcomes hard to discern at this juncture.
Fighting was seemingly concentrated around the key Highway 31, which runs parallel to the Irrawaddy River to the west and with the Chinese border to the east. This road connects the two key bridgeheads of the river at Bhamo and Myitkyina.
The KIO believe that Burmese forces based in Myitkina were massing on the east side of the river with a view to moving towards Laiza to the southeast, meaning that control of Highway 31 is vital.
Roads running from Highway 31 to the east meanwhile were also subject to ambush and fighting as the Burmese seek to penetrate and clear the KIA-patrolled areas east of the Irrawaddy, in townships such as Momauk, east of Bhamo. The manoeuvring has left civilians trapped.
"Civilians including students are stranded [in Lawtdan] as the route [to Bhamo] has been blocked due to fighting down the road," said a resident of the nearby town of Lweje. "They are also unable to go back to Lweje as the [Burmese] army checkpoint in Singlun [village] is not letting them pass. The fighting is taking place in Kyauksakan."
The Lweje road is a key trading route to the Chinese border, but residents said fighting had made the road impassable to most vehicles.
"There are KIA units in the village and they worried that civilians will get caught in artillery fire. The [Burmese army] has been firing all night from Kyauksakan and we don't know how many civilians have been killed. We also heard that a 17-year old Shan boy went down the road and was shot dead in Kyauksakan. They are in deep trouble once they start firing artillery," added the Lweje resident.
Burmese forces have been accused by Human Rights Watch of abuse against civilians that clearly violate the laws of war, such as use of forced labour and killings. "The laws of war prohibit the use of uncompensated or abusive forced labour, including work in combat areas," the group said in a statement.
Reinforcements are being sent by the Burmese army "to Myitkyina as well as Bhamo from lower Burma regions via the Irrawaddy River," La Nan said.
Artillery is a decisive apparel that the Burmese have over their adversaries, with their arsenal including hardware bought from Serbia, Israel, China and allegedly India. The Serbian Nora 155mm self-propelled howitzer, which is believed to be in the Burmese arsenal, has a range of some 45 kilometres, enabling the Burmese to strike much of Momauk township from the safety of Bhamo.
Much of the effort to supply Burmese troops is made via the Irrawaddy river. Naw Ming, from the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation, confirmed that two Burmese supply boats had been ambushed on the river on Monday, both of which were allegedly sunk.
Military Uses Weapons of Mass Destruction Against KIA Soldiers:
Jinghpaw Mung Shiga. Oct. 30, 2011
The Kachin Independence Army has been defending against the offensive Burmese military in the areas of Ga Ra Yang and Shwi Nyawngpin Lung Zep village for 6 days now. During the six days of fighting, casualties and death tolls of the Burmese military arose as now they ended up using Chemical weapon against the KIA soldiers. 10 of the KIA soldiers had incapacitated as being exposed to the chemical weapon by inhaling the lethal airborne agent which caused them dizziness, vomiting continuously and weakened.
Again, yesterday on Oct.29, Saturday, many Burmese soldiers were killed in the battle zone at the Ntap Bum village (a strategic location of KIA) not very far from the KIA head quarter in Laiza. 4 KIA militias were gassed and incapacitated by the lethal chemical weapon of the offensive Burmese military.
Although what kind of chemical weapon exactly used is not yet known, but the lethal agent of chemical weapon affects the KIA soldiers severely. It is a crystal clear-cut indication that the Burmese military really possesses the Weapons of Mass Destruction and showing off these weapons of massive destructive power to the whole world in this renewed civil war. Burma is the signatory of the Chemical Weapon Convention but has not ratified the treaty yet as of today. The United Nations, The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the International Communities must condemn and ban the uses of the chemical weapon by the offensive Burmese military against the KIA.
Clashes Lead to Blackout in Kachin Capital
The Irrawaddy. Nov. 3, 2011
SAI ZOM HSENG
Myitkyina, one of the few cities in Burma that has had a reliable supply of electricity in recent years, is now suffering from the same sort of shortages that afflict most of the rest of the country due to ongoing fighting between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Residents of the Kachin State capital say that the power has been down in the city since the evening of Nov 1 -- the longest outage since the Bu Kha Company, owned by the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), started providing electricity in 2005-2006.
Naw Sai, a Kachin man who lives in Myitkyina, said the sudden return to power scarcity has resulted in a greater demand for generators and rising fuel prices. "Gasoline and diesel have increased 500 kyat (US $0.64) per gallon, and generators are also more expensive now," said Naw Sai, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday. "Electricity is essential for running any sort of business, whether it's a restaurant, clinic or photography studio."
Bu Kha has told local people that the outage is due to damage to a utility pole in Wine Maw Township, caused by mortars or bombs used in the fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA, but there have also been rumors that the company has deliberately cut off supplies. Few, however, appear to believe the rumors, saying that the KIO would have nothing to gain from depriving people of electricity.
Meanwhile, the KIO recently replied to a letter from Thein Zaw, an ex-major general who is currently sitting as an MP for Myitkyina, that called on the group to enter into discussions with the government like other ethnic armed groups, such as the Karen National Union and the United Wa State Army.
"It is just a show for the international community," said La Nan, a spokesman for the KIO, referring to the letter, which he said was sent in late October and didn't represent the government. "The Burmese government sends us letters whenever foreign officials, such as the Indonesian foreign minister or the US special envoy for Burma, Derek Mitchell, visit the country. But at the same time, they're reinforcing their front line with troops from the 88th Infantry Division," said La Nan.
The KIO was formed in 1961 and signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1994. The ceasefire collapsed in June of this year with the outbreak of renewed fighting.
Kachin Rebels Blow Up Major Railway
The Irrawaddy. Nov. 11, 2011
Rebels from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed group, destroyed a section of a major railway in northern Burma on Wednesday in an effort to deter the Burmese military from resupplying its troops in Kachin State.
A section of the commercially-strategic railway from Mandalay -- Burma's second largest city -- to Myitkyina in Kachin State was blown up by KIA troops at midnight on Wednesday to prevent a cargo train suspected of carrying government military supplies from passing, said KIA spokesman La Nan.
There are reports that the attack, which occurred in Mogaung Township in Kachin State, injured at least one civil railway staff onboard the train. The KIA spokesman, however, claimed that the attack did not target the train and did not cause any injuries or deaths.
"We just bombed the railway section, as the government troops and arms supplies have been reinforced in Kachin State on a large scale," La Nan said, adding that there were more than 160 armed clashes between the Burmese military and the KIA in October alone, during which 14 KIA rebels were killed and 26 wounded.
Many similar armed clashes continue to break out in Kachin and Shan States, and the conflict between the KIA and government troops has created thousands of refugees along the China-Burma border. In addition, human rights groups claim that serious human rights violations, such as rape and the burning of villages, have been perpetrated against locals by the government troops.
To independently verify such reports is almost impossible since the conflict zones near the China border are located in difficult terrain and are thus inaccessible to the local and international media. The Burmese authorities have also denied international aid groups access to the conflict zones.
Both the Burmese and Chinese governments have avoided official media coverage of the clashes, which began in June after the collapse of a 17-year-old ceasefire between the KIA and the Burmese government. It is important to both governments to stabilize the region, through which an oil and gas pipeline that is being built by China and a railway from Burma's coast on the Bay of Bengal to China's landlocked Yunnan Province will pass. The US $2.6 billion pipeline project is currently under construction and is expected to become operational by 2013, while construction on the $20 billion railway will begin in December.
KIA sources said that the continued fighting will pose difficulties for Burma and China in completing these projects. Founded in 1961, the 10000-strong KIA is fighting for autonomy for the Kachin people and has rejected the current military-drafted Constitution as not granting equal rights to the ethnic groups. The KIA also did not accept recent offers from Burma's new quasi-civilian government to participate in the national Parliament and have said that a political dialogue with Naypyidaw is a requirement for any renewed ceasefire.
Recently, Naypyidaw has signed renewed ceasefire pacts with other ethnic armed groups, including the United Wa State Army, the country's largest ethnic armed group which operates in Shan State, and a breakaway faction of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in Karen State.
The clashes in Kachin State have created a sense of caution amidst the optimism of the international community over certain reformist steps recently taken by the Burmese government, including overtures to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Reflecting the contrast between the reform measures and the continued armed conflicts, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that the government needs to take more steps in its reform process. "Now, many questions remain, including the government's continued detention of political prisoners, and whether reform will be sustained and extended to include peace and reconciliation in the ethnic minority areas," she said.
Fighting Flares in Northern Myanmar
Al Jazeera. Nov. 29, 2011
2. HUMAN RIGHTS
War Crimes Continue in Kachin State as Ceasefire Urged
Asian Correspondent. Aug. 4, 2011
Five ethnic parties called on the Burmese government to form a peacemaking committee on Wednesday to stop the widespread war in ethnic areas, according to Mizzima News.
"We urged the government to shoulder responsibility to form a peacemaking committee in the form of a workshop to bring about peace," RNDP vice chairman Ohn Tin, an Upper House MP representing the Man-aung constituency, told Mizzima.
On 3 August, the last day of a two-day inter-party meeting, the Chin National Party, All Mon Region Democracy Party, Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party and Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) urged the government and ethnic armed groups to stop warfare and to declare an end to hostilities. In addition to the 31 representatives of the five political parties, the Kayan National Party also attended the meeting as an observer.
The group also asked the government, local and foreign charitable organizations and other donors to help war refugees who have fled their homes due to the fighting.
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) wants to sign a meaningful and strong ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government this time, unlike the agreement in 1994, which deprived a lot of rights and benefits for the Kachin people and the armed group itself, the Kachin News Group quoted a KIO official saying.
"The 1994 ceasefire agreement made us suffer for 17 years. We knew it was politically fruitless and the wrong agreement but we had to follow it. As a result, we have been highly criticized by Kachin people."
This is in spite of the fact that the KIO had no satisfactory option to review the condition and it signed the ceasefire agreement with the then-Burmese junta devoid of any political discussion.
Recently, the KIO has proposed an end to the merciless fighting if the government will inaugurate talks for a countrywide ceasefire. But Burmese government authorities did not reveal any obvious positive sign, according to La Nang, a spokesman for the KIO.
The KIO has met Burmese mission three times within last two months in an effort to sign a new armistice. Even though, preliminary talks are starting, Burma armed forces do not stop their military movements and the government soldiers are committing various war crimes.
A Kachin villager was brutally killed by Burmese soldiers in Kahtan-Yang village, in Kamaing Township, Burma's northern Kachin State, said local witnesses, according to the Kachin News Group . Hpukjawng Seng Du, 30, was arrested and buried alive on 31 July in the forest near the village by government soldiers, said the villagers. According to Mizzima News, Seng Du was identified as a telecommunications operator for the KIO.
KIO joint secretary and spokesman, La Nang, confirmed the death of Seng Du and it is under investigation whether he was a KIO member.
According to villagers, the above war crime was committed by the Waingmaw-based Infantry Battalion No. 58, under Northern Regional Military Command (NC), in Myitkyina, and Hlaingbwe-based Light Infantry Battalion No. 338, under Mawlamyine-based South Eastern Regional Military Command (SEC).
The same day about 7 a.m. Burmese government soldiers from the same military columns murdered 17 year old Marip Tang at his home, another war crime in the same village, added villagers.
Kahtan-Yang villagers are fleeing to the town of Kamaing after they learnt brutal murders at their village, fearing more atrocious killings, villagers said. Burmese soldiers from the same unit arrested eight villagers in Kawng Ra, in Kamaing, as porters on 30 July, to bury corpses, quoting local witnesses Kachin News Group said.
On 24 July, KIA ambushed Burmese convoy from Infantry Battalion No. 105 at Nga Pauk Kone in Kamaing. Four soldiers were killed and roughly 10 wounded. The areas around Kamaing on Namti-Hpakant route has become a war zone between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese troops since the renewed skirmishing started on 9 June.
On 2 August, the KIA launched another ambush-attack on a Burmese military truck at around 5 pm (local time) in N'mawk Township, Manmaw District, Northern Kachin State. The attack took place during two days of talks negotiating a new ceasefire between delegates from the Kachin Independence Organization and the Burmese government at the KIO's Laja Yang Liaison Office.
The truck carried military personnel, policemen and intelligence agents from the Military Affairs Security (MAS). The ambush took place on the road connecting N'mawk (Momauk) and two Taping (Dapein) dams near the Sino-Burma border. It occurred in the KIA's Battalion 15 area, quoting local sources at the scene the Kachin News Group said. As revealed by witnesses, there were casualties in the attack but the accurate number is unknown.
Recently, Burma's Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, released an open letter addressed to President Thein Sein and ethnic armed groups. Suu Kyi made an appeal for political talk and an urgent ceasefire between major ethnic rebel groups – Kachin Independence Organization, Karen National Union, New Mon State Party, Shan State Army – and government troops. She said that she was ready to contribute all her might to end the armed conflicts and to reconstruct Burma as a peaceful developed nation.
Govt Army Accused of Planting Landmines around Kachin Church
The Irrawaddy. Sept. 5, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
Kachin Christians have accused Burma's armed forces of abusing their religious rights after government troops seized control of a church in Kachin State and turned it into a military outpost, complete with fortifications, trenches and landmines, according to local sources.
The church, in the village of Katsu in Waimaw Township, was commandeered by the Burmese army last month amid an ongoing armed conflict with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a former ceasefire group that resumed hostilities with government troops on June 9.
On Aug 26, members of the Katsu Kachin Baptist Church sent a letter of complaint to the chief minister of Kachin State saying that government troops from Infantry Battalion (IB) 58 and IB 318 had banned them from entering the church since Aug 13.
"They [the government army] took over the church in Katsu village and started fortifying it. They have banned local villagers from going to the church or traveling around the area," said Mai Li Awng, a spokesperson for a local Kachin relief group called Wun Tawng Ningtwey ("Light for Kachin People").
"I don't think they should be allowed to do this because the church is a religious site, and has nothing to do with politics. It's not appropriate to take over a church and turn it into a military base. It's a human rights abuse," she added.
Naw La, a Kachin activist, said that there has been an increase in cases of extortion, torture and looting in Katsu since fighting between the KIA and government troops began in June. Clashes occur near Katsu almost every day, he said.
The government troops have also taken over houses abandoned by local villagers. Katsu has around 100 houses and a population of about 1,000, although most have fled the area since fighting began. The commanders of IB 58 and IB 318 had earlier rejected an appeal made by the church members on Aug 16 that called for the removal of landmines planted in the church compound, as well as in a schoolyard and along several main roads.
In their letter, the church members wrote: "We the members of the Katsu Baptist Church are facing difficulties in worshiping the God we believe in." In the letter, addressed to Kachin State Chief Minister La John Ngan Hsai, the church called for the removal of the mines.
"We therefore respectfully would like to urge the Kachin State Chief Minister to remove the mines, give us the normal situation around the church as before and the right to travel safely to farms and paddy fields by taking necessary actions," read the letter.
An estimated 20,000 Kachin civilians have so far been displaced by the conflict, many of them seeking refuge on the Sino-Burmese border and in the city of Laiza, where the KIA is based, according to Kachin relief groups.
Mass rapes reported in Myanmar
United Press International. Sept. 27, 2011
Kachin Women's NGO Urges UN to Condemn Atrocities in Northern Burma
Mizzima. October 7, 2011
Thomas Maung Shwe
Representatives of the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (Kwat) charged on Friday that Burmese troops are committing wide-scale human rights abuses including rape and torture in areas controlled by Burma's second largest armed rebel group, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Fighting between the KIO and the government broke out on June 9 in northern Kachin State and neighbouring Shan State after a 1994 cease-fire between the two sides collapsed.
The Kwat spokespersons also criticized a recent report issued by UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon's office which it said downplayed the war between the Burmese army and the KIO. The secretary-general's report titled "Situation of human rights in Myanmar" was submitted to the UN General Assembly in September and covered the time period August 26, 2010, to August 4, 2011.
The report concluded that the outbreak of hostilities between the Burmese army and the KIO poses the "risk of an escalation into large-scale violence and open fighting for the first time since the signing of a cease-fire agreement in 1994."
The Kwat representatives said that it own report "Burma's Covered Up War: Atrocities Against the Kachin People" which they released on Friday proves that large scale violence has been going on for more than four months in the areas where the Burmese army has launched its offensive.
Kwat spokesperson Hkawng Seng Pan told Mizzima "the Burmese army is committing violent human rights abuses, including rape, murder and forced labour in places where it is fighting against the KIO. Ban Ki-moon and the UN must speak out about what is happening so the killing stops."
Hkawng Seng Pan said that while the rhetoric and tone of the Burmese government may have changed recently, the actions of the country's armed forces has not. She told Mizzima: "You can see clearly how the Burmese government is working; the Army is fighting and killing ethnic people while Thein Sein is speaking about human rights to a Parliament full of generals and former military officers."
Hkawng Seng Pan said her organization had documented numerous human rights abuses committed by the Burmese army against civilians during the three-month period beginning the day after the outbreak of fighting between the KIO's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the Burmese armed forces.
The Kwat report's details include the accusation that on August 9 in Kachin State's Bum Tawng Village in Wai Maw Township soldiers from the Burmese army's 37 Battalion "gang raped and then killed" a 39-year-old women and her 17-year-old daughter before torturing the girl's 44-year-old father. According to Kwat, incidents like this are occurring frequently. Kwat says that of the 37 rape cases they documented during the first two months of the conflict, 13 of the female victims were killed. Kwat also estimated that at least 25,000 people have been displaced by the fighting so far.
The bleak picture painted in the report is somewhat of a contrast to the UN report's description of recent events in the same area. A UN spokesperson, however, defended the report. In an e-mailed statement sent to Mizzima, Choi Soung-ah said: "The report of the secretary-general speaks for itself, including references to tensions with Karen and other armed ethnic groups; displacement of civilian population and other reported consequences of conflict; and the most serious tensions involving armed clashes, as well as potential escalation thereof, between the KIA and the Tatmadaw (para. 41)."
Choi's statement added: "Please note that the report of the secretary-general is not intended to be factually exhaustive. It does not preclude information and assessments available from other sources such as that which you refer to. It provides a necessarily selective overview of developments which serve as a backdrop for the secretary-general's observations. In this regard, we draw your attention in particular to para. 83 of the report."
Paragrpah 83 of report says: "Of equal concern are ongoing tensions and armed conflict with some armed ethnic groups. In line with the efforts over the years to uphold cease-fire agreements and with President Thein Sein's commitment to keep the ‘peace door' open, urgent efforts are needed by all sides to avoid the escalation of tensions and to negotiate durable solutions to outstanding political and security concerns as part of a broader national reconciliation process.
Failure to do so would not only affect the communities concerned, but could also hold back the process of reform, including prospects for ethnic aspirations to be legitimately addressed within the new political structures. Myanmar cannot afford for there to be impediments to the peace and unity that are needed for its stability and development."
Various organizations including the UN High Commission for Refugees estimated that fighting in the Myawaddy area has caused more than 20,000 refugees to flee to Thailand in the days following the 2010 election.
Report Exposes Atrocities in in Burma's Newest War
Kachin Women's Association Thailand. Oct. 7, 2011
In its new war against Kachin resistance forces, Burma's regime has deliberately targeted civilians with killings, torture and sexual violence, displacing over 25,000 people during the past four months.
"Burma's Covered Up War: Atrocities Against the Kachin People" by the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT) documents atrocities committed by the Burma Army since it broke a 17 year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on June 9. Women and children have suffered some of the worst crimes, including rape and sexual violence. 37 women and girls were raped during the first two months of the conflict; 13 of these were killed.
"Our documentation team was deeply shocked at the details of these crimes. Some women were gang-raped in front of their families. In one case, soldiers slaughtered a woman's grandchild in front of her before raping and killing her also," said KWAT spokesperson Shirley Seng,.
Atrocities have escalated since the regime expanded its offensive in September, deploying over 1,000 troops from nine battalions to seize Kachin strongholds in northern Shan State. On September 24, three separate rape incidents by Burma Army troops occurred in Muse and Kutkai townships, Shan State, involving two girls, aged 14 and 17, and one woman, aged 40.
Thousands of villagers from Kutkai have been displaced in recent weeks, but denied refuge in China and unable to access camps in KIA-controlled areas of Kachin State, have dispersed to towns, other villages and jungle hiding sites.
Over 25,000 villagers already sheltering in makeshift camps along the Kachin-China border are facing severe shortages of food and medicine, as the regime has blocked agencies working officially inside Burma from assisting them. Appeals to foreign governments to address this humanitarian crisis have so far fallen on deaf ears.
KWAT is urging the international community to abandon its "wait and see" policy with Burma, bring increased pressure on the regime to end its military offensives and atrocities, and provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the displaced Kachin.
"It was ‘wait and see' that let the regime start this new war against the Kachin. It is ‘wait and see' that is letting them carry on attacking women and children. ‘Wait and see' is a death sentence for us", said Shirley Seng.
The report is available for download at: www.kachinwomen.com
Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) is a non profit-making organisation working on behalf of Kachin women. We have a vision of a Kachin State where all forms of discrimination are eliminated; where all women are empowered to participate in decision making at a local, national and international level; and where all Kachin children have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Burma: Army Committing Abuses in Kachin State
Government Forces Pillage Villages, Use Forced Labor in Renewed Fighting
Human Rights Watch. Oct. 18, 2011
Burma's armed forces have committed serious abuses against ethnic Kachin civilians in renewed fighting in Kachin State, Human Rights Watch said today. Since hostilities began over five months ago against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Burmese armed forces have been responsible for killings and attacks on civilians, using forced labor, and pillaging villages, which has resulted in the displacement of an estimated 30,000 Kachin civilians.
On September 30, 2011, Burma's President Thein Sein suspended a controversial US$3.6 billion hydropower dam project on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State, which appears to have been one of several factors in the renewed hostilities between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The Chinese-financed project was suspended after growing dissent in Burma over its current and potential environmental and social impacts.
"Renewed fighting in Kachin State has meant renewed abuses by the Burmese army against Kachin villagers," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Tens of thousands of people have fled through the mountains and jungle at the height of the rainy season, driven away by fear of army attacks."
Fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA, Burma's second largest ethnic armed group, began on June 9, ending 17 years of ceasefire. The Burmese army first attacked a strategic KIA post at the location of another Chinese-led hydropower dam on the Taping River in Momauk township, Human Rights Watch said. The army subsequently launched a major offensive and moved in hundreds of troops to areas formerly controlled by the KIA. There have since been failed ceasefire talks and an unconfirmed number of skirmishes, ambushes, and battles involving heavy mortar shelling. The KIA subsequently destroyed several road and railway bridges to frustrate the Burmese army's advance and supply lines. The KIA reportedly began conscripting able-bodied men and women aged 18 to 55 for a two-month military training, in anticipation of protracted fighting.
Human Rights Watch conducted a fact-finding mission to the conflict areas in Kachin State in July and August, visiting abandoned villages and eight remote camps of internally displaced persons. Witnesses described serious abuses committed by Burmese soldiers, including killings and attacks on civilians, pillaging of villages, and the unlawful use of forced labor.
Fearing abuses from the Burmese army, tens of thousands of Kachin fled their villages, Human Rights Watch said. Before arriving at displaced persons camps in KIA controlled areas, several thousand villagers hid from the Burmese army in the jungle, in some cases for a month after the fighting began. Those who were able to visit their homes to get provisions told Human Rights Watch that Burmese army soldiers had occupied their villages and confiscated their property and belongings. Some described being held by Burmese soldiers, who interrogated them harshly for information about the KIA, including by threatening to kill them. Interrogations were particularly menacing for villagers who spoke Kachin dialects and very little Burmese.
Human Rights Watch documented the killings of three Kachin civilians by Burmese soldiers in June and is investigating credible allegations of other killings. Villagers told Human Rights Watch that on June 15, Burmese army forces entered Hang Htak village in Man Je township searching for suspected associates of the KIA. A Burmese soldier shot and killed a 52-year-old woman and her 4-year-old grandson in their home at close range as they tried to flee. On June 17, credible local sources told Human Rights Watch that a group of soldiers allegedly shot and killed Nhkum Zau Bawk, a farmer and day laborer, in Kawng Gat Ban Ma village as he stood unarmed with a group of friends at a cemetery. Local authorities reportedly provided financial compensation to the man's family, but no legal action was taken against the perpetrator.
According to the September 2011 report to the United Nations General Assembly by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Thomas Ojea Quintana, "Allegations of abuses against civilian populations throughout Kachin State include reports of 18 women and girls having been gang-raped by army soldiers, and of four of those victims being subsequently killed." While Human Rights Watch did not speak to any victims or witnesses of rape, community members confirmed such abuses had occurred.
Several people told Human Rights Watch that Burmese army soldiers fired on them as they were fleeing their village. For instance, in early June, Burmese soldiers twice fired on a 62-year-old Kachin woman and her three young grandchildren in Sang Gang village. She told Human Rights Watch, "In the morning when we were cooking rice, we heard gunfire and we left our food and went to the field, looking into the village the whole day before we fled. When we ran the soldiers shot at us. We were really afraid. We just ran and hid." She said that after two days in the jungle without basic provisions, they decided to return home to get food, at which point they were fired upon a second time. "We had already left the house and were on our way out of the village … and the soldiers opened fire on us [again]," she said. "No one was hit. When the soldier opened fire it made me shake and I didn't know what to do. We just ran."
Under the laws of war applicable in conflict areas in Burma, all sides are prohibited from mistreating persons in their custody, targeting civilians, or pillaging homes and other civilian property.
The Burmese army has unlawfully used Kachin civilians for forced labor, which has long been a serious problem in Burma's ethnic areas, Human Rights Watch said. Five civilians told Human Rights Watch that in recent months they had been forced to work for the military without compensation; several others knew of family or friends who had had to do so. A 36-year-old mother of six children who fled Lusupa village, a government-controlled area, told Human Rights Watch how she and other Kachin villagers, including children as young as 14, had been commonly forced to porter for the Burmese army. She said that her husband, who remained in their village to tend their crops and check on their home and belongings, was forced to carry out labor for the army twice, in late June and mid-July.
The laws of war prohibit the use of uncompensated or abusive forced labor, including work in combat areas.
Many Kachin recounted previous abuses at the hands of the Burmese army. A 58-year-old Kachin farmer, who said all his possessions had been taken by the Burmese army, told Human Rights Watch: "We lost our homes and properties to the Burmese soldiers several times. That is why I don't have hope in this situation."
Recent abuses in Kachin State highlight the importance of establishing a United Nations commission of inquiry into alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Burma, Human Rights Watch said. The UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, first called for a commission of inquiry in March 2010, and to date 16 countries have publically confirmed their support for the initiative, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and others, as well as Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Pronouncements of political reform in Burma do not seem to have reached the army in Kachin State," Pearson said. "Ongoing abuses starkly demonstrate that until real steps are taken towards accountability, including an international commission of inquiry, minorities such as the Kachin will be a grave risk."
For additional information on recent abuses in Kachin State: http://www.hrw.org/en/node/102409#Section1
Christian Pastor Arrested by Burmese Government Light Infantry Unit
Mizzima News. Oct. 19, 2011
(Interview) - A government military unit assigned to clear an operation route beat five men including Pastor Jan Ma Aung Li of the Catholic Association and arrested them on Sunday, October 16. The five men are from Nam San Yang village in Daw Phung Yang sub-township in Bhamo District in Kachin State, located about 15 miles from Laiza, the home of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) headquarters. They were released on Monday morning. Mizzima reporter Panida talked with Jan Ma Aung Li, 49, about his encounter with the government troops.
Question: How did they arrest you?
Answer: On Sunday, our bishops were not there. They told me to lead the service. We planned to start praying at 8 a.m. But we heard gunfire so we decided that the services should start at 9 a.m. Before that time, the government troops came and arrested us.
Q: Why did they arrest you?
A: They said that all males in the village were people's militiamen and KIO staff. Then they asked where the guns were and beat our backs with gun butts and kicked us. They asked where the warehouse of guns was and where the bombs were. I replied that no KIO soldiers came here.
Q: How did the government troops enter? Which infantry arrested you?
A: Troops entered from the Nam San River. Other troops came from the left side. Infantry No. 438 based in Momauk and Light Infantry No. 121 entered. The troops that arrested us were Light Infantry No. 438.
Q: What was the numerical strength of the joint force?
A: The second in command of the troops that arrested us is Aung Naing Oo. He said that his troops numbered 150 soldiers and the other group had 150 soldiers too. So, the total was 300.
Q: What did the government troops say when they arrested you?
A: Around 9:30 a.m., while we are waiting, the government troops fired at us. We saw their guns aimed at us, so we lay down on the ground, and said we were just civilians. If we did not lie down on the ground immediately, bullets might have hit us. An elderly woman and children cried. Then, they told five men including me to sit down and they conducted an interrogation. Then they tied our hands with wire and took us away.
At that time, I was extremely nervous. If KIA troops came at that time, they would shoot and we could die. It's lucky that KIA troops did not come. They ransacked the whole church.
They asked us whether we had bombs or not, where we put the guns and time bombs. They kicked us and beat us with gun butts. Then we were tied with wire and led away. After we had passed about four houses, they ordered us to carry rucksacks. We said that we could not carry them because our hands were tied. They told us not to run away and they untied us. Then we carried the rucksacks, walking with frequent pauses. We had to walk for three furlongs in about three hours. Then we rested at Lawkathama Monastery in Nam San Yang.
Q: How did they release you?
A: When we arrived at Lawkathama Monastery, the KIO had followed us and gunfire broke out. The government troops had an interpreter. He was a Yawan ethnic. He has a strong Kachin accent. He had a walkie-talkie so he could listen to what the KIA was saying. When we arrived at a Baptist church, they asked us if we wanted to return to the village or we wanted to accompany them. They said if we accompanied them, they would release us when we arrived at a safe area. If they released us at the church, the other military units were more violent, they said, and they could not guarantee what might happen. The government superior military officers had ordered that all men from Nam San Yang were members of the KIA people's militia and they should be killed as informers and the women should be arrested, Lieutenant Colonel Aung Naing Oo said.
I said that the Catholic people would be waiting for me the next morning and I wanted to go back. Within a few hours, we tried to roundup the Catholic people; otherwise other government military units would have killed them. They said we should go there within an hour and then we were released.
Q: When did you arrive in Laiza?
A: As we returned to our village, we did not use the main road. We followed a jungle path. When we were about to arrive at my home located at the edge of the village, we saw our houses were on fire. So we fled to Laiza. At that time, more than 10 houses were on fire. I arrived in Laiza around noon.
Q: How were the houses burned?
A: While we were at the Baptist church, a member of the government Light Infantry No. 121 set fire to the house of pastor Aung San. The house was painted with oil-dregs, so it was [easily] burned. I don't know how the other houses were set fire.
Q: Where are the remaining four men who were beaten and arrested?
A: They are Mali Naw Taung, Mali Tu Khay, Ah Wu and Shan man Laung Lu. Now, we are all in Laiza.
Q: Do you know whether civilians have been forced to work as porters?
A: A man of mix-raced (Shan-Burmese) who is a member of the KIA people's militia had been arrested after the seizure of some weapons. And a Lisu man working in a banana plantation, a Burma-born Indian man and a Burmese man were forced to serve as porters. Altogether, four people. They started to work as porters two weeks ago. They have to accompany the government troops and carry bags of bullets.
Q: Before you were released, what did the government troops say?
A: They told us to take a message and give it to the KIO. They just came as an advance military unit to clear the route. If the KIO doesn't shoot, they will not shoot. If the KIO shoots, they will also shoot. Six battalions will march from the Bhamo Road and three will march from the Myitkyina Road. So, the total of nine battalions will come. Their vehicles will carry weapons to attack Laiza, according to Lieutenant Colonel Aung Naing Oo. But, he did not disclose when the troops would attack.
Q: What else would you like to say?
A: Earlier, I was forced to work as a porter. At that time, I had to carry heavy weapons. The troops [that arrested Jan Ma Aung Li] did not have heavy weapons. I don't know whether the troops came just to clear the route as they said or not; I don't know whether they will be supplied with heavy weapons later or not. I don't know whether the government troops will attack Laiza or not.
Burma: Kachin Churches Attacked, Women Raped and Civilians Killed by Military while Regime Talks of Reform
Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Oct. 21, 2011
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is deeply concerned by reports that the Burma Army are directly attacking churches in Kachin State, beating pastors and church members, setting homes alight and raping, torturing and killing civilians.
According to CSW's sources, on 16 October soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 438 seized control of a Roman Catholic Church in Namsan Yang village, Waimaw township, where 23 worshippers, mostly women and elderly people, had gathered for the 8am Sunday service. The worshippers took refuge from the gunfire behind the Maria prayer sanctuary. When the troops saw them, they shot several rounds of bullets into the sanctuary. The Catholic assistant to the priest, 49 year-old father-of-four Jangma Awng Li, decided to speak to the troops as he is fluent in Burmese. He was beaten in his head with a rifle butt, and injured his forehead when he hit a concrete wall. He and four other men were handcuffed and detained by the soldiers.
The troops, who were later joined by soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 121, continued to march through the village shooting, and reached the Baptist church compound in the evening. During the march the detainees, including four from other villages who had been with the troops for two weeks, were used as forced labour. The detainees had to stay with the troops overnight and were temporarily stationed in the Baptist church compound. The whole northern part of village was burned and both church properties were destroyed.
Two days ago, Light Infantry Battalion 121 shot 72 year-old Maru Je Hkam Naw in the arms and legs whilst he was erecting a fence around his house in Namsan Yang village. Houses in Namsan Yang were burned by the Burmese Army and Mr Jangma Awng Li and other detainees, too afraid to return home, fled the village. At least 21 villagers were detained and used for forced labour, and a 19 year-old Rakhine boy was shot dead. His body was burned and thrown into the mine in Namsan Yang where he worked.
On 18 October, a 19 year-old girl, Maran Kawbu, was detained, tortured and gang-raped by soldiers from the same battalion in Namsan Yang. Her body was left on the river bank.
In Momauk, approximately 500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled the conflict and are seeking temporary accommodation in the church. On 19 October, one man, a Shan farmer named Mr Tintun, was shot dead by soldiers from Light Infantry Brigade 601, while fishing.
CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said, "These brutal attacks on religious communities and peaceful civilians stand in stark contrast to the regime's recent rhetoric about reform and peace building. CSW has received numerous reports of rape, torture and killing of civilians in Kachin State by the Burma Army this year. According to international humanitarian law, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, intentionally directing attacks on religious buildings constitutes a war crime and a violation of international law. Rape, forced labour and killing civilians on a widespread and systematic basis constitute crimes against humanity. We urge President Thein Sein to call a halt to the military's attacks on civilians throughout Burma, stop the widespread and systematic violations of human rights, declare a nationwide ceasefire, and enter into a meaningful dialogue process with all the ethnic nationalities and the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi, in pursuit of genuine national reconciliation. We urge the international community to mobilise the mechanisms of the United Nations, through the General Assembly, to hold the regime in Burma accountable for these violations of international law, and end these war crimes and crimes against humanity which the regime is perpetrating with impunity."
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
FBR REPORT: Kachin State- Burma Army Burns and Loots Homes in Wai Maw District, Kachin State, Burma
Free Burma Rangers. Nov. 15, 2011
Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burma Army broke out on 9 June 2011, ending a 17-year cease-fire agreement between the two groups. As many as 20,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Kachin State, according to local networks helping IDPs in Laiza. KIA sources have said that the number of standing Burma Army battalions before the conflict began was 93. Currently there are 113 battalions in Kachin State with more troops on the way, according to KIA sources. Divisions 33, 88, and 99 are currently operating in Kachin State.
On 16 October 2011, approximately 200 Burma Army soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 438 and Infantry Battalion (IB) 121 attacked Nam San Yang Village in Wai Maw District, Kachin State. The soldiers burned over 30 houses and stayed for 3 days in the village occupying the village temple. All the villagers from Nam San Yang Village have fled their homes and are staying with relatives or in IDP camps in Laiza. Other villagers are living in huts in their fields as it is now harvest time and they do not want to lose this year's crops. The Burma Army is still patrolling from their nearby camp down into the village making it difficult for the villagers to reclaim their left belongings and farm their fields.
For more information regarding this attack:
Democratic Voice of Burma - http://www.dvb.no/news/troops-raze-kachin-villages-locals-flee/18666
Christian Solidarity Worldwide - http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=press&id=1260
Is the terrorist attack on Kachin people propagating disciplined democracy?
Kachin News Group. Nov. 22, 2011
The Kachin Think Tank Society (KTTS)
The first terrorists attacked in Kachin capital Myitkyina killed 11 inncent people (mainly children) and injured 27. One never-ever dreamt of the Kachins becoming victims of a terrorist attack given that such things are associated with the Talibans, Iraqis, Arabs, Pakistanis, and so on. The N'Jang Kawng, or Thida in Burmese attack in Myitkyina on November 13, 2011 publicized for the first time that Kachins are in the midst of war of terrorism. In fact, locals have been shocked by the serial and powerful bomb-blasts in several government and public areas in Myitkyina, Waimaw and Mogawng since June though powerful explosions have taken place several times in Myitkyina on November 12, 2011.
The terror attack on Dayau Tang Gun's plot in N'Jang Kawng Quarter at night in Myitkyina was atrocious. The head of the household, Mr. Dayau Tang Gun is into several community services as a leader of the Kachin cultural Band Baja team, of the Kachin Martial Art (Jinghpaw Jauchyen), and of the Red Cross. The house was a multiple-center for orphans, for Band Baja, for IDPs altogether hosting above 40 regular members, apart from some on rent. In this analysis the critical observation on the attack is made within the framework of the ongoing civil war between the Burman troops and KIA. The incident points to the retaliation by Burmans by launching a "terror attack on Kachins."
Critical overview on the scenario of the attack.
The attack left 14 dead and 27 injured in the house of Dayau Tang Gun. The blast in Dayau's house started a fire which soon spread to adjacent houses of Hpaga Naw Ring and wife Hla Ngwi, Mr. Lashu Naw Awng and Mashaw. The incident caused the loss of two-wheeled Chinese motorcycles, money, four main buildings and property. The details and exact examination of the incident cannot be ascertained on the basis of scientific data due to the high security. However, the possible hypotheses depends on several and different groups of eyewitnesses such as the injured family members, neighbours and local sources. Due to the powerful blast a big two storied house was completely gutted in just 30 minutes. Rescue of the victims was tardy by fire fighters and putting out the fire caused was difficult.
The attack was by unidentified people. A two feet deep crater was created where the explosion occurred and victims were hurled 50 yards away killing most people who were on the second storey and injuring those on the ground floor. According to locals of Thida Quarter a "big and unusual bomb" was hurled. It seemed to have been set off by remote control, may be from the Northern Military Quarter, Myitkyina. The second possibility is also drawn unanimously here where the incident was due to "multiple bomb blasts followed by an inferno at Dayau Tang Gun's house which spread to the adjacent buildings, according to local fire fighters. Locals said "the blast occurred after two unidentified men on their D.T. motorbikes arrived near the house and left a package." It is clear that "the attack was planned targeting of innocent Kachin students and children, which is nothing less than inhuman."
Analysis of the attack: Ethnic war by Burman leaders
This has been the grisliest incident when it comes to innocent civilians so far. Therefore, the major analytical examination is focused on the relationship between the Kachin Independence Organization and its armed wing Kachin Independence Army (KIO/A) and the Burman troops "before and after the attack" by Burman troops of the military backed civil government under the leadership of U Thein Sein. Of course, although there might have been certain personal antagonism between Tang Gun and the Burman authority this can never be a sufficient reason for his family to be targeted in such a way at a time when the new civilian government has propagated promotion of civil values across the country.
Against international military law of the United Nation, the Burmese troops are using an Unidentified Mass Destructive Weapon (UMDW) for the first time in its offensive against the KIA in Lungzep Kawng, Gara Yang and N'Tap Bum since November 9. Such UMDW seems to be in use as the major weapon in their operation in every battle namely in Hkawan Bang, Lawdan, Sang Gang and so on. It seems Burman troops are extracting revenge because of their high casualties. It is obvious that the government troops are killing every Kachin on frontline zones, condemning "all Kachins as KIA who needs to be wiped out." Such a wild and uncivilized attitude of Burmese troops is reflected in the incident in which innocent Kachin civilians are becoming targets.
Nov 22 Bomb blast
In fact recently, in the Kachin state level meeting, there was an altercation between Chief Minister Duwa Lajawn Ngan Seng and Northern Commander Maj-Gen. Ko Ko Naing regarding the issue of "civil war and Kachins." When the Commander said "all The Kachins are to be uprooted this time." In response, hitting the table Duwa Ngan Seng said, "Why don't you say only they instead of including all the Kachins? Do you mean to terminate even me since and I am also a Kachin?" From this account it is sure that "Burman troops are targeting all Kachin civilians while ostensibly fighting KIO/A." In fact the underlying plot of the military campaign is Kachin ethnic cleansing policy of the new civilian government. It is also on the other hand a public denial of the Kachins as not co-inhabitants of the Union of Burma (Myanmar), rather an enemy of the Burman majority. Thus, it can also be noticed that the name of the government is changed according to time, condition and space as today it is under the civilized garb of "democracy" yet the internal system and plot against non-Burmans particularly on Kachin Christians has remained the same as before. The attack on civilians for the first time seems to be connected with the policy of Kachin extermination declared by one Burman military backed leader after the other. Because, the mission of the Burman troops and the theory of the Burmese government from the standpoint of Burmans as the rulers and the Burman troops as its protectors, is that all non-Burmans are their enemy the Kachins being the foremost.
Thirdly, the first attack on civilians could be examined connected to the political standpoint of the civil body of the Kachins. Indeed, the ruling Burmans have monitored the Kachin masses dissecting from the body of the KIO/A in various ways as it had been smoothly run for KIO/A's splitters namely the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK), Lasang Awng Wa's Militia Groups, Kachin Defense Army (KDA)-Kawng Hka and others such as Ah Dang Militia Groups, Tangbau Hkut Myat and three more groups from Kutkai. All these groups actually do not represent the Kachin polity which is realized by themselves and the Burman-led government. However, the new government has intentionally used them as its cursors propagating the 2008 constitution and under which the Kachins are to surrender. In fact it is clear that the policy is that all ethnic nationalities are located in positions of subalterns and its peripheries just to support the Burman centers, of religion, education, politics, culture, history and literature among others. In this regard the only and last Kachin stronghold which has clearly declared and stood for the so-called Federalism and Kachin's freedom from Burman's oppression is the KIO/A.
In the process, the those who split from the KIO/A, have timely given their input in monitoring the Kachin public under the supervision and pressure of their master, the Burman Generals especially former Brig-Gen Thein Zaw. Prominently, NDAK militia head Zahkung Ting Ying and Gwi Htu militia head Lasang Awng Wa organized the Kachin Public Conference at Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA)-Myitkyina on November 12, 2011, intending primarily to collect signatures and unanimous opinion to urge the KIO/A into an immediate ceasefire with the Burmese Army as if looking at the welfare and prosperity of the Kachin public. Even though, the effort was made up to the highest level of pursuing Kachin public's opinion, the conference ended the opposite way due to "the representatives pressure in co-operation with their plan for insisting on the KIA to quit war for ceasefire." They had boldly expressed their role as Kachin public seeking genuine ceasefire and peace talks within the guaranteed framework of democracy under the supervision of any third party from abroad." It shows that the Kachin public today has adopted its own political stand irrespective of pressure and oppression. This also in turn has revealed the political standpoint of the Kachin public regarding the federal spirit. Not only because of the KIO but it is the original public opinion for justice, equality, ethnic federalism in the Union of Burma. It indicates that the Kachin political stand of federal value regenerated since the Panglong agreement will never permitted to be compromised with any "alien and made up political policy which diverts from any value of the Panglong Treaty" today. Today, this attack on civilians coincidently created so far, for the first time after came one day after "the Kachin Public's rejection of Zahkung Ting Ying and Lasang Awng Wa's insistence on the 2008 constitutional means of a political solution and the public declaration on genuine federalism."
The factors reflecting the scenario after the attack could be highlighted extensively in the eyes of the Kachin public. It is obvious that the authorities miserably failed to rescue the victims and lacked equipment to put out the blaze. Meanwhile, the hospital was totally under high security which restricted people from visiting the hospitalized victims and to keep the media in the dark. No individual and public inquiry is being allowed and investigation is wholly controlled by the authority's agents. The victims are infuriated. There was an arrest of a local Kachin yesterday who expressed his opinion on the attack on innocent orphans and students saying "who else will commit such a heinous crime but the Burmans?". Meantwhile, it is reported that Tang Gun, has been arrested on his mission campaign in Kahta without any investigation. All these point to the perpetrators of the attack as the Burman authorities.
Another consideration which needs to be examined is the arrest of five members including Dayau Tang Gun of the attacked family being accused of "the multiple bomb blast on the ground floor due to lack of skill while training was being given to…" Obviously, this intense inquiry is the key to all the arrests by the authorities in order to bring out the perpetrators of the attack publicly. Consequently, a blogger of kachindailynews.com (KDN) on November 13, blames Tang Gun's secret relationship with the KIO/A's top leaders. It points that his residence has been available to the KIO/A. Since there is no point of accusing like this in public, such propaganda intends to have meant that "the attack is due to such intimate relationship between Mr. Tang Gun and the KIO/A." Then, the perpetrator of this attack could be nobody except "the military backed Burmans."
This analysis defines that the first attack on civilians is a terrorist war on Kachin people. Because the attack speaks to the Kachin masses much louder than any incident in the history of the Kachin people and has the characteristics of a terror war on the Kachin people. Firstly, the attack is systematic and intentional on innocent orphans, family members, band members, children and students. This attack is a "crime against humanity." Secondly, all the four families who were the victims are Kachin ethnics, which shows that the attack fulfills "the ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kachin people" violating the rights of ethnicity. This attack fully reflects the Burman policy over non-Burmans in Burma. Thirdly, all the victims are Christians belonging to different denominations. By the attack exclusively on Christians the perpetrating group is violating the UN declaration of religious rights. Fourthly, since most of dead and the wounded are all children under 18, the attack reflects the systematic extinction of a group of people and their future. Having violated all civilized culture of humanity, the attack has not just defined the first terror attack on Dayau's orphanage and students but also a terror war on the Kachin people by the ruling Burman. The mission today of the Kachin should be to fight the policy of terrorism of the ruling groups, by bringing all races, groups and leaders from the Kachin soil to the International Criminal Court without delay. The Thein Sein's government is fully responsible for the deaths of innocent Kachins.
Note: The Kachin Think Tank Society (KTTS) is organized by Kachin social and religious researchers.
"Yellow Rain" Fuels Chemical Weapons Fears
Democratic Voice of Burma. Nov. 25, 2011
A mysterious yellow rain that has fallen on a township close to a conflict zone in Burma's northern Kachin state has triggered alarm among locals, some who fear Burmese troops could be using chemical weapons in their assaults on Kachin rebels. Witnesses say the substance has burned holes through vegetation, sparking concerns that humans could also be affected.
The reports first emerged last week in a Kachin News Group (KNG) article that quoted residents of Mai Ja Yang village, close to the Kachin Independence Army's Brigade 3 headquarters near the border with China, as saying the "yellow rain" had fallen for two consecutive days.
Another Mai Ja Yang local told DVB yesterday that the mysterious substance had turned vegetables "yellowish around the parts affected but didn't completely kill them. We are afraid to eat them. Now we are just using water from wells," he said.
Other images carried by local media show leaves pockmarked with holes where the substance has burnt through. Droplets that landed on the ground have left a thick yellow stain.
A man from Prang Ngawn village near Mai Ja Yang, which lies west of an area of Kachin state where fighting has been ongoing for weeks, said in an email yesterday that more had fallen on Tuesday evening. "Last night around 11pm one villager hears the plane noise and looked at the sky and saw the plane fly over Prang Ngawn village. After 10 [minutes] later she hears sound and drops the liquid. This morning all the leaves from vegetable farm have yellow drop and the hole on leaves. The leaves where the white liquid drop areas have a hole and burnt the comer."
It is not the first time this year that Burmese have alleged use of chemical weapons by the army: in June soldiers from the Shan State Army claimed that shells fired at a military base during an assault by Burmese troops left them feeling dizzy and nauseous.
Although not independently verified, they mirror reports of alleged chemical weapons use elsewhere in Burma. A 2005 report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide found circumstantial evidence that the Burmese army had fired mustard gas shells at Karenni Army troops, leaving them vomiting and unable to walk.
Similarly the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) said that in both 1992 and 1995 during major offensives against the Karen National Union (KNU), "many [Karen] soldiers… spoke of suffering from ‘dizziness, nausea, vomiting and unconsciousness' after inhaling the vapours emitted from shells".
Independent analysis of the recent reports of yellow rain has not been carried out. A team of environmentalists, including former Greenpeace staff member Faith Doherty, discovered a similar substance near to a base of the rebel New Mon State Party close to Burma's border with Thailand in 1993 that showed up after a propeller plane had flown overhead. Another member of that group, Steve Green, recalled that, "One of the soldiers in the camp said he had scraped up [the yellow substance] and put them on some food he gave one of the dogs, which he said died within a day after".
Chit Ko Ko Kyaw, the director of the Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, told DVB in an interview that it could be due to a weather phenomenon caused when dust kicks up into the atmosphere. He said various infrastructural projects in India and Bangladesh may be unleashing quantities of dust, that when mixed with the cold temperatures found in the mountainous Kachin state creates a thick, slushy substance "leaving some sort of silt-like [stains] when they dry up".
The yellow rain phenomenon famously appeared in the 1970s when members of the US-backed Hmong army in Laos accused the Soviet-allied Laotian government of attacking them with chemical weapons that produced an oily, yellow substance that rained down on villages.
While many complained of neurological and physical problem resulting from the rain, a number of the samples sent for testing in the US turned out to be bee faeces. A subsequent UN investigation was inconclusive.
Interestingly, a number of locals in Mai Ja Yang have reported that thousands of bees left their hives when the yellow rain fell. "We went out and peered at the Intensive English Program (IEP) School where there is a bee hive behind the school," a local told KNG shortly after rain fell on Sunday last week. "After the rain stopped all the bees disappeared."
No confirmation that the Burmese army uses chemical weapons has ever been made, although a Defence Intelligence Agency survey in 1993 claimed that Burma has "chemical weapons and artillery for delivering chemical agents." A US intelligence official reported similar claims to Congress in 1988 and 1991.
Additional reporting by Francis Wade.
Partners Relief & Development
Potential War Crimes Exposed in Detail in New Report Titled, Crimes in Northern Burma: Results from a Fact-finding Mission to Kachin State
28 November 2011, Bangkok, Thailand -- Burma's army is committing serious human rights violations against ethnic communities in Kachin State that may amount to war crimes, according to a new report released today by the Norway-based non-governmental organization Partners Relief & Development (Partners).
The 59-page report documents first-hand testimony and frontline photographs of the increasingly brutal civil war in Burma's Kachin State, which broke out on June 9 between the Burma army and the Kachin Independence Army, ending a 17-year-long ceasefire agreement. Partners has traveled to the conflict zone several times since June and documented torture, extrajudicial killing, open fire on civilians, human shielding, unlawful arrest and detention, forced labor, forced relocation, displacement, property theft and property destruction by the Burma army. An estimated 30,000 civilians have fled the conflict and abuses by the Burma army since the war began in June.
The report comes as the new semi-civilian government of Burma touts political and legal reforms; and as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to visit the country, the first visit by a US Secretary of State since 1955. According to Partners co-founder and international advocacy director Oddny Gumaer, "While the political situation in lowland Burma is being interpreted as a major breakthrough, the situation for millions in the ethic areas is worse than it's been in two decades." The principle author of the report, Bryan Erikson, adds, "Our findings reveal civilians to be living in extreme physical duress as a direct result of an attack perpetrated by the Burma Army in October 2011." Gumaer echoes the activist community stating, "The Burma army needs to immediately cease attacks on ethnic civilians in Kachin State."
The new report displays graphic images of killings perpetrated by Burma army battalions 74 and 276, as well as wanton property destruction, all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, according to Partners. A Kachin woman, whose 8-year old son was killed on 8 October by the Burma army, is quoted in the report.
"I saw my son face down and there was a lot of blood. He was bleeding from the right side of his chest and from his left hand. I picked up his dead body and took it back to my house. I took his clothes off that night and washed him and washed his clothes. I put clean clothes on him and went to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, two Burmese soldiers were inside my house taking my belongings and placing them in bags. They were breaking all the things they didn't want."
Partners is calling on the international community to support a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry into international crimes in Burma, and for donors and UN agencies to call for immediate access to populations affected by the war. "Secretary Clinton should prioritize discussion of these abuses with all levels of Burma's government and let them know the world is watching, and we're shocked" says Gumaer.
Partners Relief & Development is a registered charity in six countries. The work of Partners has provided emergency relief and sustainable development for tens of thousands of displaced people in Burma since 1994. Partners actively investigates, documents and reports human rights violations for the purposes of advocacy and awareness. Partners seeks free, full lives for the children of Burma and reconciled communities living in peace.
For additional information or photographs please contact: email@example.com
Brutal Reality Behind Junta's Benign Face
Bangkok Post. Nov. 27, 2011
Myanmar Minorities Suffer Abuses Despite Reforms
The Associated Press. Nov. 29, 2011
Denis D. Gray
Deep in jungles far from the international spotlight, Myanmar's army continues to torture and kill civilians in campaigns to stamp out some of the world's longest-running insurgencies.
New Report: Burmese Army Continues Committing Human Rights Violations in
Secretary Clinton must focus on abuses against ethnic minorities during upcoming visit to Burma
Physicians for Human Rights. Nov. 30, 2011
PHR today released a report detailing human rights abuses committed by the Burmese Army in Kachin State, Burma. PHR's investigation reveals that the much-publicized incremental political changes in central Burma have not translated into improvements for the ethnic populations in the remote areas of Burma. During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Burma in December, PHR calls on her to focus on abuses against ethnic minorities.
In September, PHR conducted an investigation in Burma's Kachin State in response to reports of grave human rights violations in the region. PHR found that between June and September 2011, the Burmese army looted food from civilians, fired indiscriminately into villages, threatened villages with attacks, and used civilians as porters and human minesweepers.
"These findings come at a crucial moment as the international community is considering increased engagement with Burma in response to its perceived progress toward democracy," said Richard Sollom, PHR's deputy director. "As the Kachin and other groups continue to endure heinous human rights violations at the hands of the Burmese army, the government's rhetoric must begin to translate into human rights for all of the people of Burma."
Key human rights findings of the report include:
- The Burmese army forced Kachin civilians to guide combat units and walk in front of army columns to trigger landmines.
- The Burmese army regularly pillaged food and supplies from civilians.
- The Burmese army fired automatic weapons directly into a civilian village, striking non-military targets.
"This report sheds an important light on the brutal violations suffered every day by the people of Kachin State. While the rest of the world applauds Burma for ‘flickers of progress' the ethnic minorities of Burma continue to endure human rights violations as they wait for true change," said Shirley Seng, spokesperson for Kachin Women's Association of Thailand.
The report also provides the first humanitarian assessment of some of the internally displaced people living in areas of Kachin State that are not controlled by the Burmese government.
PHR visited six camps and four shelters for displaced Kachin civilians on the Sino-Burmese border and conducted health and nutrition assessments. PHR's investigation found that the camps fail to meet multiple minimum humanitarian standards outlined in the Sphere humanitarian guidelines, are overcrowded, and have an insufficient number of latrines and water supply points. Sphere guidelines were established a decade ago by a group of aid organizations to ensure that displaced people have a right to life with dignity and that all efforts should be made to alleviate human suffering in the wake of disasters and conflict.
PHR welcomes an increase in humanitarian aid to Burma, including support to organizations operating within Burma. PHR also continues to call for a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the ongoing human rights abuses in Burma.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent, non-profit organization that uses medical and scientific expertise to investigate human rights violations and advocate for justice, accountability, and the health and dignity of all people. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.
Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.
3. IDPS AND REFUGEES
Kachin Refugees Face Food Shortages
The Irrawaddy. Aug. 18, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
Kachin State's war refugees who are camped out at the Sino-Burmese border will soon suffer from food shortages if there is no further aid, and the government keeps blocking international aid agencies from supporting them, says two prominent Kachin NGOs.
"The refugees in Maija Yang have only enough food for 20 days," said Mai Li Awng, a spokesperson for a local Kachin relief group called Wun Tawng Ningtwey (Light for Kachin People), on Wednesday. "We cannot ask the local people for more donations, because they have been supplying food to the refugees for two months already. We face a food shortage if we don't get further aid."
Mai Li Awng said there are about 4,000 refugees in Maija Yang. However, the total number of refugees at the Sino-Burmese border, including the city of Laiza, is estimated at nearly 20,000 by the Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT). More than 3,000 have taken refuge in the Kachin capital Myitkyina and the nearby town of Waimaw, according to a recent KWAT report.
Mai Li Awng said that the refugees dare not to go home as fighting still breaks out from time to time in their villages. Nongovernmental organizations and relief agencies such as World Food Program and the International Committee for the Red Cross are prohibited from supplying aid to the Kachin refugees, said the KWAT report.
The fighting between government troops and the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) flared on June 9. Despite ongoing ceasefire negotiations between the two sides, no truce has been announced. Atrocities and human rights abuses by the government army troops are driving increased numbers of villagers to flee to towns or border areas. Those refugees in temporary camps along the Sino-Burmese border are surviving on donations of rice and occasional other food supplies from local communities, but a lack of proper food is starting to cause malnutrition among the children, said KWAT in its report. Shirley Seng, a spokesperson for KWAT, said, "We urge international donors to push for access to the war-affected in Kachin State. They must not stand by while the regime blocks aid to those who desperately need it."
The government stated in its press conference on Aug. 12 that local authorities had opened relief centers in Kachin towns for the refugees. However, these refugees in fact are mostly sheltering in churches, where local communities are struggling to provide support, and international and local NGOs have been expressly forbidden to assist them, according to KWAT.
The report also blamed the government for blocking Rangoon-based NGOs' and relief agencies' support to Kachin refugees at the border. At a press conference in Naypyidaw last Friday, Burma's Information Minister Kyaw Hsan accused the KIA and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), of destroying the 1994 ceasefire agreement between the government and the KIO. He also blamed an umbrella organization of armed ethnic groups, the United Nationalities Federation Council, saying that it was formed by insurgent groups such as the KIO. In response, the KIO released a statement on Wednesday condemning the government for its accusations, and describing the government's press conference as "propaganda."
The KIO says it wants a nationwide ceasefire and political dialogue with the new government to establish a real federal union in Burma.
Kachin aid groups running on empty
IRIN News. Sept. 13, 2011
Bangkok – Kachin aid groups are running out of means to help more than 25,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the border between Myanmar and China. "The situation is worsening now because no one here has the capacity to support them," La Rip, coordinator for the Relief Action Network for IDPs and Refugees (RANIR), incorporating 12 local community organizations, told IRIN from the border town of Laiza.
Civil departments from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) - the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) - have been providing most of the food at 15 makeshift camps around the border, La Rip said. But as the conflict enters it fourth month, additional support is urgently needed, he added.
"People are getting only a small amount of rice a day, without any nutritional support," said La Rip. "We are at the moment worried about their food security and shelter, with winter advancing."
Since 9 June, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from rural parts of eastern Kachin State, when the Burmese Army attacked the KIA, ending a 17-year-old ceasefire between the two armies and sending thousands of civilians fleeing to the Kachin-China border, towns and jungle areas. Much of the conflict focuses on Kachin resistance to a government plan to recruit their men into a single state-run border guard force.
Most IDPs are living in temporary bamboo shelters with plastic sheet roofing. The crowded living conditions, poor sanitation and lack of clean water have led to illness - seven children died, mainly of diarrhoea and malaria, in Laiza during August. At one site, 2,000 people are sharing 10 toilets, say aid workers.
"We are in very urgent need of medicine," said Mai Ja, an aid worker with the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, who is based in a camp supporting 3,000 IDPs along the border. The uprooted civilians also need school supplies, psycho-social support, and shelter as winter approaches, La Rip said.
RANIR has raised more than US$312,000 for relief needs, mainly from the KIO and Kachin communities in Myanmar, China and abroad. But that money is nearly gone, Mai Ja said.
A $2.4 million request sent to the international funding community in July has had little response, aside from some $38,000 donated by two European NGOs, money that is still being processed.
Meanwhile, as of 13 September, the fighting continues. "People are really afraid to go back to their villages," La Rip said. Since fighting broke out in June, the UN and other international agencies have not had access to the area.
Thousands Flee as Kachin Fighting Escalates
The Irrawaddy. Sept. 27, 2011
Thousands of villagers have been forced from their homes since Friday as fighting between the Burmese Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Battalion 4 intensifies, according to volunteer groups.
Kaw Ja, a member of a Kachin youth group which is helping refugees in the area, said that many thousands of people living in four townships in the northern Shan State battle region have taken shelter with relatives or friends due to the conflict. She claimed that as many as 20,000 refugees may have abandoned their homes in the region, but The Irrawaddy cannot independently verify this figure.
"Villagers can hardly be found in the war zone. But it is hard to tell if they are refugees or internally displace people because most take shelter in houses of relatives or close friends. Some villagers who have no relatives or friends have taken shelter at the church, but they run away when the police investigate and take their photo," said Kaw Ja.
There are more than 200 villages boasting a population of over 200,000 people from various ethnic groups in the area controled by KIA Battalion 4. Many residents who accept villagers face an investigation from authorities for having overnight guests without permission, she added.
"I heard villagers are running as much as they can, but still nobody is giving them assistance," said La Rit who heads the Kachin Refugee Support Group.
Due to the outbreak of violent clashes between the KIA and government troops in June, Laiza has seen an influx of more than 10,000 refugees.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, KIA spokesman La Nan said that he did not know many details about the refugees other than increasing numbers could be heading to border towns such as Muse, Kyugok and Namkham.
Since 1997, the Burmese regime has destroyed more than 3,000 villages and displaced over half-a-million civilians in eastern Burma, according to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, an umbrella organization responsible for the distribution of aid at the Thai-Burmese border.
Most villagers head to churches in the area but investigations by the Burmese authorities make them flee in terror, claims Mai Ja of the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, one of the groups engaged in relief efforts near the Sino-Burmese border. Recently, international and regional human rights groups -- including the International Federation for Human Rights, Altsean-Burma and Burma Lawyers' Council -- urged the European Union to support the establishment of a UN Security Council Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Burma.
Kachin Refugees Need Clothes, Blankets
The Irrawaddy. Oct. 21, 2011
War refugees from Kachin State who are currently living in makeshift camps along the Sino-Burmese border are urgently in need of blankets, clothes and other supplies as wintry cold weather begins to affect the mountainous high-altitude region.
"Many of the refugees do not have adequate clothing or blankets," said Awng Wa, the chairman of the Kachin Development Network Group. "Most of them are sleeping on the naked floor of small wooden huts."
Awng Wa said that health problems will be exacerbated in the coming months, especially by December when conditions can be freezing. Refugees began fleeing to the camps due to the outbreak of hostilities in June between Burmese government forces and Kachin Independence Army rebels in Kachin and Shan states.
Moon Nay Li, a spokeswoman for the Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT), echoed the call for aid, and said that since Burmese government troops launched further offensives against Kachin rebel positions last week, more refugees have fled to the border camps.
The total number of refugees at the Sino-Burmese border, including the 15 refugee camps in the main Kachin towns of Laiza and Maija Yang, is estimated at nearly 30,000 people, she said, adding that only one month's budget of food and aid remains with the local Kachin community groups which supply the refugees.
International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement on Oct.18 saying that Burmese government forces have committed serious human rights abuses against ethnic Kachin civilians since renewed fighting broke out in the northern state in June. The HRW statement said that the Burmese government armed forces have been responsible for killings and attacks on civilians, using forced labor, and pillaging villages.
No less than 37 women and girls were raped during the first two months of the conflict. Thirteen of those were killed, according to a report from KWAT. Shirley Seng, another spokesperson for the KWAT, stated in the report: "Our documentation team was deeply shocked at the details of these crimes. Some women were gang-raped in front of their families. In one case, soldiers slaughtered a woman's grandchild in front of her before raping and killing her as well."
UN caginess hides a Kachin refugee crisis
Democratic Voice of Burma. Oct. 28, 2011
Reports that have emerged from Kachin state in northern Burma since the region spiralled into war earlier this year have made for grisly reading: close to 40 cases of rape of ethnic women by Burmese troops; countless incidences of forced labour; hundreds of civilians trapped in free-fire zones, and so on. After a brief lull, fighting has escalated in recent weeks, and is nearing an intensity not seen in the region for nearly two decades.
The meagre aid reaching victims of the conflict has largely been organised by local entities –- churches, women's organisations, and sympathetic families, as well as the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), whose armed wing has been battling Burmese forces since 9 June. These groups have been forced to step in and compensate for the lack of UN aid reaching refugees, which are thought to number between 25,000 and 30,000 – the vast majority are internally displaced persons (IDPs), while a few have managed to slip across the border into China.
Of that total figure, only around 6,000 are receiving UN aid, and the majority of these are in the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina and the towns of Bhamo and Waingmaw, which are under Burmese control. To date, no UN body will clarify why such a small proportion of refugees are being given assistance, although the most likely scenario is that the Burmese government has blocked offers of aid to those sheltering outside of its territory. UN envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana, one of the few Burma players in the UN who has not let up pressure on the regime, wrote in a recent report that UN offers appear to have been rebuffed by the government, which claims to be "[assisting] at the local level, and when needed they will seek further assistance from relevant partners."
Claims that all refugees are being provided for, as the government seems to suggest, do not marry with independent local reports that have warned for months that food and medical supplies are low. Human Rights Watch said last week that Burmese troops continue to pillage villages, while supply lines carrying rice, medicine and water purification solution to the conflict zone have been blocked by the army.
The UNOCHA agency, which coordinates aid and which has an office in Rangoon, released a report in September that homed in on the needs of the 6,000-odd refugees in government territory that it has access to, whilst sidelining the 20,000-odd sheltering in Kachin areas. Nowhere in its ‘Recommendations' section was there a call to allow them access to those 20,000. The reasons for its myopia may be manifold, but all point to a real reluctance to highlight ongoing, inhumane government and military policy towards Burmese refugees and IDPs. Acknowledging the thousands sheltering in KIO territory would go against Naypyidaw's assertions that both the conflict is not on the scale feared, and that the vast majority of refugees have chosen to seek refuge in opposition territory rather than the government's.
The arena that international aid groups in Burma work in is a fragile one, where criticism of the government can equal eviction or curtailment of operations. Thus they are effectively required to tow the official line (although the current OCHA head in Burma, Barbara Manzi, was more frank during a 2006 posting in Sudan when she told US diplomats that "confinement [of aid workers] is hampering food distribution to the estimated 73,000 refugees in need of food assistance" –- a problem strikingly similar to the one in Kachin state now).
The major problem with the UN's caginess is that projecting an artificial image of control means that backdoor donors who could channel crucial unofficial aid cross-border and through churches are not alerted to the crisis, while a complacency could set in among international donor countries who still see the UN as the most effective safety net for refugees in Burma. In short, although correcting government spin could well affect its work in the country, at least in this case it has proven to be an ineffective player. When contacted by DVB, OCHA said that it could not comment on Quintana's concerns that thousands were not receiving aid, but only that negotiations to get aid to all of those in need "is ongoing". Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, also told a press briefing on Thursday that "assistance is being delivered in reachable areas [and] discussions continue to ensure that assistance reaches all those in need."
The guarded rhetoric is typical of the UN and other INGOs in Burma, whose public statements often vary greatly from concerns voiced behind the scenes. This is is understandable insomuch as the UN needs that continued access, but it paints a highly distorted picture of the crises that regularly unfold in the country: take the aid debacle after Cyclone Nargis in 2008, for example, when an OCHA staff member secretly told US officials that "the UN was concerned that 'coming out strong' on forced relocation [of cyclone victims by the army] at this time could jeopardize the access to the Delta the regime had recently granted UN international staff." Private discussions with officials at the time, and which have now been leaked, showed that the extent of government ineptitude and paranoia, and the brutality of its treatment of victims, went far beyond what the UN was willing to publicly share with the world.
Another by-product of this policy is that it discredits the findings of local groups, whose work is often dismissed as politicised or rudimentary. The current crisis in Kachin state shows however that these groups are crucial to our wider understanding of the situation, and therefore that the impetus for action should not solely rest on ‘official' bodies like the UN. Moreover, these somewhat blinkered assessments are being circulated at a time when the Burmese government is attempting, and with alarming success, to shore up its image; yet its denial of the extent of the crisis in Kachin state, which has been massaged by the UN, provides a fitting analogy for how much of the outside world has selectively judged the new government's merits, whilst ignoring its major shortcomings.
1,000 Kachins Flee to IDP Camps
The Irrawaddy. Nov. 16, 2011
More than 1,000 villagers in southern Kachin State have taken shelter in makeshift camps in the jungle after fleeing their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire of an intensifying conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese government forces.
Relief workers say the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in question have fled in the last few days and are from five villages around Mansi Township, some 25 km southeast of Bhamo in southernmost Kachin State, close to the Shan State and Chinese borders.
The relief groups accuse the Burmese government of denying the UN and intentional organizations access to the IDP camps to deliver humanitarian assistance.
Kaw Ja, a member of a Kachin youth group which is assisting refugees and IDPs at the Sino-Burmese border, said that the number of IDPs had reached 1,187 by Tuesday, and that they had been separated into six camps near the border behind KIA front lines.
"In this camp alone, there are 400 refugees," he said. "They are currently sheltering in temporary makeshift tents and sharing whatever food they have brought with them." "We are not able to adequately supply the IDPs, and in the long run they will face food shortages. They presently have no support," he said.
A recently arrived IDP named Churchman said he and 180 fellow villagers from Mansi Township had fled in a hurry, and that many had run away without carrying any supplies. He said some had sheltered with relatives in other villages, but that he and his family had joined hundreds of other villagers in seeking refuge at a camp in Nawng Tau, near the Chinese border. "Our living conditions are alright," said Churchman. "However, we are worried about food supplies."
Villagers fleeing from conflict in Kachin State are not recognized as refugees by the Chinese government and cannot therefore cross the border freely, said KIA spokesman La Nan. Mai Ja, a local relief worker, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the offensive is intensifying and more troops are being deployed into the region.
The exodus of people from their villages across Kachin State began on June 9 due to the resumption of hostilities between the two sides. There now estimated to be some 30,000 IDPs sheltering at nine camps in and around the main town of Laiza and seven camps in Maija Yang on the Shan-Kachin border.
The villagers say they fear being captured, abused or even killed by Burmese soldiers; accounts are rife of human rights abuses by troops in the area. Mai Ja said that Tuesday marks the 19th day that a 28-year-old Kachin woman from Moemot Township has been held in captivity by government troops from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 321. "The troops seized the girl, her husband, their infant and her father-in-law while they were returning home from their fields with maize," she said. "The others were later released, but not the woman."
According to a report by the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, on Oct. 8, soldiers from LIB 74, 276 and 601 arrested eight males aged between 17 and 65 years from Namlim Pa village in Bhanmaw District. The eight were forced to work as porters, carrying army supplies and weapons. Villagers often have to carry sacks of rice, food and heavy weapons, frequently have their hands tied, and may be forced to walk all day on very little water and food, the report said.
A UK MP, Andrew Mitchell, the country's secretary of state for international development, visits Burma this week. Burma Campaign UK has called on him to do more to ensure British aid reaches internal refugees who have fled increased attacks by the Burmese army over the past year.
Burma Campaign UK said that almost 150,000 people in Burma have been forced to flee their homes in the past year because of internal conflicts, and that the Burmese government is severely restricting access to these internal refugees by the UN and other aid agencies, resulting in a shortage of food, shelter, clothing and medicine.
Rising Number of Refugees Strains Relief Efforts
The Irrawaddy. Nov. 25, 2011
Sai Zom Hseng
Continuous fighting between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has forced a growing number of refugees to flee to the Sino-Burmese border, where they are in urgent need of assistance, according to relief workers in northern Burma's Kachin State.
The number of people displaced by the conflict has increased from 30,000 to 40,000 in recent weeks, with most seeking shelter along the border and others taking refuge in urban areas such as Myitkyina and Bhamo, according to Mai Ja, the vice-chairman of a relief committee currently based in the border town of Maija Yang.
Most of the aid coming in at present is from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, and private donors both in the state and overseas, said Mai Ja, whose committee is part of an umbrella group of seven local NGOs known as Wunpawng Ning Htoi ("Lights for the Kachin People").
There has been no support from major international relief agencies, she added. "They [the refugees] fled to the border hoping for shelter and assistance from China, but in reality China won't officially accept them," said Mai Ja, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday.
As colder weather sets in, one of the most urgent needs is for warm clothes and blankets. "We were able to provide some blankets, but we didn't have enough for everyone," she said.
Meanwhile, people in Burma's major cities have also started contributing to the relief effort, by offering both moral and material support. On Friday, about 200 orphans from the Ma Soe Yein Monastery in Mandalay took part in a prayer event to call attention to the plight of people affected by the fighting, a day after sending letters of encouragement and paintings to the refugees. Several well-known writers also tried to raise awareness of the issue by holding a public talk in Mandalay on Thursday on the need for unity in Burma, a country long torn by ethnic divisions. Bawa Ah Lin ("The Light of Life"), a group previously engaged in relief efforts for victims of natural disasters, said it planned to collect donations from businessmen in Mandalay to help the refugees in Kachin State. In Rangoon, the Free Funeral Service Society, led by former actor Kyaw Thu, said that it would donate 20,000,000 kyat (US $26,000) to assist the relief effort in Kachin State.
However, Mai Ja said that any assistance coming from other parts of Burma would likely only benefit refugees sheltering in cities under government control, not those along the border.
Clashes between the two sides erupted in the second week of June. Although there has been no major fighting in recent days, there have been reports of skirmishes in the Maija Yang area. Although the government recently reached informal agreements with several ethnic armed groups, including the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army, it has not held talks with the KIA/KIO since the second week of August.
Kachin IDPs 'Suffering Food shortage, Disease'
Democratic Voice of Burma. Nov. 30, 2011
An area of Kachin state in northern Burma designated as off-limits to aid groups is suffering from major food shortages and spread of diseases, according to a report which claims to show "compelling evidence" of human rights violations committed by the Burmese military in the war-torn state.
The US-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) says the survey is "the first humanitarian assessment of some of the IDPs living in areas of Kachin State that are not controlled by the Burmese government." The region has been beset by conflict since June, when Burmese forces attacked the opposition Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
With the report timed to coincide with the arrival of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told, PHR's deputy director, Richard Sollom, said in a statement: "As the Kachin and other groups continue to endure heinous human rights violations at the hands of the Burmese army, the government's rhetoric must begin to translate into human rights for all of the people of Burma."
Among the key findings was evidence that villagers were forced to walk in front of Burmese soldiers to act as minesweepers, as well as the pillaging of "food and supplies" from civilians by Burmese troops. It also details the killing of "non-military targets" by firing "automatic weapons directly into a civilian village."
As a result the vast majority of IDP's are acknowledged to be in territory not controlled by the Burmese government. Various NGOs and some government aid agencies are concerned that the intentional blockade of those areas by the Burmese army is fuelling a humanitarian catastrophe.
But according to PHR, another report in September by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) made no mention of the 22,000 IDP's that the Burmese at the time were denying aid agencies access to, instead focusing on the 5,900 civilians who had fled to government areas and which it was supporting. With an additional 10,000 having fled in the past month, the number of those without UN aid has likely risen.
UNOCHA responded to the allegations by claiming their September report focused only on this "specific group" in government-controlled territory, but that they were attempting to gain access to "all those in need". When asked by DVB, however, they refused to comment on whether attempts to gain access to those IDPs outside of government areas had been successful.
The World Food Program (WFP) told DVB last month that they had not considered attempting to gain access to IDPs through China because theirs "is a Myanmar-based program". UNOCHA today corroborated this position.
As a result, PHR claims that "very little aid reaches IDP camps, and groups caring for them face challenges in providing food, medicine, and shelter. The most vulnerable populations—those in rural areas and near the border—have not received any official humanitarian aid; they are only receiving aid from community-based organisations, which have largely been ignored by the international donor community."
Paul Wittingham, head of the UK's Department for International Development's (DFID) in Burma, echoed this earlier in the month when he told DVB that the ability of local groups inside Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) territory to deliver necessary supplies was very limited.
The PHR report adds that "the incremental political changes in central Burma have not translated into improved livelihoods or improved the human rights situation of ethnic populations living along Burma's frontiers."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Burma today, recently described the multiple conflicts afflicting Burma's border regions as "terrible". But the government has spearheaded peace talks with ethnic armies, and political advisor Nay Zinn Latt said yesterday that these talks were "progressive" and that a "settlement" would be reached soon.
PHR's findings mirror historic evidence of attempts by the Burmese army to trap and starve out recalcitrant ethnic groups. A leaked US cable from May 2006 describes the practice as a "standard Burma Army strategy" in its offensives against Karen rebels.
"GOB [Government of Burma] roadblocks prevent food from entering northern Karen State, imposing hardships on Karen villages. For the past two months, the leaders claim a GOB checkpoint four miles east of Taungoo has stopped all transportation of rice, salt, and other goods from entering Karen State," it said.
"BA [Burma Army] units continue to debilitate Karen villages through forced relocations and the supply cutoff, a standard BA strategy to weaken the support network of guerrilla KNU soldiers."
Free Funeral Service Society Sends Aid to Kachin Refugees
Mizzima. December 1, 2011
To help cut the winter cold, the Rangoon- based Free Funeral Service Society [FFSS] has sent blankets and coats to war refugees in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. The aid will be dispatched to refugees camps in Myitkyina and Waimaw.
"We sent a lot––five or six big packages. Now, the weather is very cold. Children have suffered a lot," Kyaw Thu, the FFSS chairman, told Mizzima.
Temperatures have dropped below four degrees Centigrade in the area, according to state-run newspaper. Residents in Maijayang said it recently had a snowfall and heavy winds.
"We cannot go to the border. If we went, we could encounter problems. We can't go beyond a limited area. If we went beyond that area, we might be charged with political acts," Kyaw Thu said.
The Mandalay-based Bawa Ahlin charity group and the Rangoon-based "88-generation student group" said they would travel to Kachin State to make donations.
In Maijayang, an area controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), an estimated 800 people suffer from lung ailments, refugee sources said. Thousands of refugees are living in six camps in Maijayang on the Sino-Burmese border.
Mai Ja, a member of the Thailand-based Kachin Women's Association – Thailand (KWAT), told Mizzima: "Most of them suffer from coughs. They sleep on mats on cement floors. They're cold, especially children and the elderly."
Recent clashes between government troops and the KIO have increased the number of war refugees, which now number more than 40,000 across Kachin State, according to estimates by the KIO relief committee.
On Monday, residents fled fighting in Balaungdainsa, located between Bhamo and Muse, in southeast Kachin State.
"Mostly, they cannot stay in their villages. They have to build huts in the jungles. Now it's winter. Everyone suffers from the cold," said Dwe P. Sar, a civilian official with the KIO relief committee.
Since early July, residents say that local NGOs have been reluctant to aid refugees because of warnings from the government.
Mai Ja said, "We want the government to stop hindering aid workers. The government should help people not make trouble for them."
UN Gains Access to Kachin Rebel Territory
December 12, Democratic Voice of Burma, Dec. 12, 2011
UN aid groups have been granted unprecedented access to territory controlled by the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA), where thousands of war refugees have been struggling to access food and medicine following a blockade on international aid groups leaving government-controlled areas in the northern state.
The decision by the Burmese government to allow the UN to visit the town of Laiza, where the KIA is headquartered, is a sign that negotiations over access to those displaced by fighting since had borne fruit, said Barbara Mansi, head of the Burma operation of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
A team is currently en route, and hopes to reach there by this evening, although the conditions of the roads in Burma's isolated border regions means they may not arrive until tomorrow. A source in Laiza told DVB this afternoon however that they had already arrived, and were staying at a hotel in the town. They are bringing relief supplies, particularly pillows, mats and blankets to support the refugees during the winter months.
Mansi said negotiations would continue to allow it access to all of the estimated 40,000 Kachin refugees. "This is hopefully going to be the first of many [more trips]," she told DVB.
The blockade on international aid groups entering Kachin territory has meant that for the past five months, local entities, such as Kachin churches and small advocacy groups, had been forced to take on the burden of supporting the refugees.
The government had allowed the UN to access only around 6,000 people in the government-controlled towns of Myitkyina, Waignmaw and Bhamo. Neither side has publicly stated the reason for the blockade, but it most likely stems from perceptions in Naypyidaw that supporting the thousands who fled to KIA territory would be tantamount to support for the rebel army itself.
Reports have also circulated that China has threatened to evict the Kachin who have fled across the border from the Kachin town of Maijayang, despite signs that areas close to Maijayang could soon erupt in violence as Burmese forces gain ground.
The war in Burma's northernmost most state, which began in June following the KIA's refusal to become a government-controlled Border Guard Force, has come at great human cost, with tens of thousand displaced and evidence of severe human rights abuses by Burmese troops.
The US-based Physicians for Human Rights said in a report last month that there was evidence of the use of civilians, including children, as human minesweepers, and the killing of "non-military targets" by firing "automatic weapons directly into a civilian village."
Despite several stabs at negotiations towards a ceasefire, fighting continues: a local Kachin relief worker told DVB over the weekend that intense clashes were ongoing close to Waingmaw, when around 200 Burmese troops launched an assault on Sadone and Kan Paik Ti villages.
The KIA's spokesperson, La Nan, said last week: "According to our statistics, there have been 67 clashes so far between 1 and 8 December, and those were intense clashes." Three Burmese columns had been deployed to take the KIA Bridge 3 base in Wuhtau Bum, while Brigade 4 was also defending against a volley of assaults.
La Nan added that around 600 additional Burmese troops were deployed to areas close to KIA territory in northern Shan state as the conflict shows signs of escalating further.
Additional reporting by Naw Noreen.
4. DAMS, PIPELINE AND GOLD
Killing the Irrawaddy.
The Irrawaddy. Aug. 4, 2011
China is not something the people of Burma chose for themselves, but they have to heavily bear the repercussions. For many decades, China's influence has intruded on their daily lives politically, economically, socially and culturally. However, the relationship has now reached a tipping point, as this dominant neighbor is not only supporting the country's ruling dictators, and stealing the country's vast natural resources, but also directly destroying the lives of the people of Burma.
In this land of pagodas, paddy fields and smiles, for centuries the people of Burma have proudly owned seven natural treasures gifted by Mother Nature. They are the three parallel chains of mountain ranges, called the Western Yoma (Rakhine Yoma), the Bago Yoma and the Eastern Yoma (the Shan Yoma), and the four major rivers, called the Irrawaddy (Ayeyawady), the Chindwin, the Sittaung and the Thanlwin. All are national landmarks of the country, and they have grown together with its people for countless generations. The Irrawaddy is the most important river among the four, and it is now under attack by the greedy autocrats, the Burmese regime and the Chinese government. If no efforts are made right now, the Irrawaddy will disappear from the map of Burma in coming decades. It will become a tragic memory of history for future generations in Burma.
The Irrawaddy was born at the confluence of the N'mai (Mayhka) and Mali (Malihka) rivers in Kachin State, northern Burma, where snow-capped mountains stand high guarding the country's border with China. According to Kachin legend, the confluence is where the Father Dragon and his two sons Hkrai Nawng and Hkrai Gam were born and are settled. Traditionally, the Kachin people believe that if the waterway is broken and the dragons are disturbed, they will be angry and create a natural disaster. A famous present-day author created another symbolic metaphor, writing that a young man (N'mai River with strong current) and a young woman (Mali River with steady flow of water) met here secretly, made love, and as a consequence a girl was born. This girl became the mother river of Burma. Her finest waterways, and long journey of 1,348 miles (2,170 Km) from the mountains in the north to the Andaman Sea in the south, effectively and consistently help the livelihoods of millions of people in Burma. Many cities, townships, villages and ports are situated on the riverbanks of the Irrawaddy. It is an essential and vital factor in the nation's transportation, fishing, weather and, importantly, agriculture, especially rice production.
In May 2007, the Burmese military regime and China's state-owned "Chinese Power Investment Corporation" (CPI) signed an agreement to build seven large dams in Kachin State within ten years, with the expected date of completion in 2017. One dam will be built on the Mali River, five dams on the N'Mai River and one at the confluence of the Mali and N'Mai, called "Myitsone" (junction of two rivers in Burmese). After completion of the seven dams, about 13,360 Megawatts (MW) of electricity will be produced annually and transported to Yunnan Province to feed China's expanding energy need. The Myitsone Dam at the confluence of the Mali and N'Mai is the largest among the seven dams, and is expected to produce 3,600 to 6,000 MW of electricity annually. It will become the fifteenth largest hydroelectric power station in the world.
The Myitsone Dam site is located just 2 miles below the confluence and about 24 miles away from Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. The length of the dam is about 499 ft (152 m) and the height is about 499 ft, equivalent to the height of a 50-story building. The surface area of the reservoir is about 295.8 sq mi (766 sq km), about the size of New York City (301 sq mi). A maximum water depth of the reservoir will be about 950 ft (290 m), approximately the height of a 66-story building. The estimated cost of the Myitsone Dam construction project is about US $3.6 billion. The total cost for construction of the seven dams and hydroelectric development projects is about US $20 billion. The major construction contractor from the Chinese side is the China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CCGC), and from the Burmese regime side is Asia World Company.
Asia World Company is run by the notorious drug-lord Lo Hsing Han and his son, Tun Myint Naing (aka Steven Law), who are under the targeted sanctions imposed by the US and very close to the regime's powerful Vice-President Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo.
From the beginning, the people in Kachin State have known that the building of such a mega dam at the origin of the Irrawaddy River will effectively kill the river itself and drastically affect the lives of millions of people. The Kachin people and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), an ethnic armed group representing the Kachin people, have appealed several times to both the Chinese and Burmese authorities to abandon the dam project at Myitsone. Also, a team of scientists from China and Burma, hired and funded by CPI, submitted its "Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Special Investigation)" to both Chinese and Burmese authorities in October 2009, in which they recommended the abandonment of the Myitsone Project. However, the appeals of the Kachin people and suggestion of scientists fell on the deaf ears of greedy and inhumane regimes. As such, construction of the Myitsone Dam has been active and ongoing.
After receiving complaints from the Kachin people, CPI hired a team of experts and scientists from the Chanjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research (CISPDR) of China and the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) of Burma to conduct the EIA on Hydropower Development of the Irrawaddy River Basin above Myitkyina, Kachin State. CISPDR was in charge of technology and quality of the whole environmental assessment of the project outside China. BANCA was responsible for the environmental baseline study and Biological Impact Assessment (BIA). The agreement for conducting EIA special investigation was signed between BANCA and CPI (Southwest Hydro Division) on December 24, 2008. BANCA started its investigation on January 7, 2009 with 84 team members. Chinese scientists joined the Burmese team on January 14, 2009. They worked together for five months in Myitsone and other areas around the dam sites. BANCA submitted the EIA report to CPI in October 2009.
In its report, BANCA identified Myitsone as "nationally important, regionally significant and globally outstanding." It also identified the Irrawaddy River as "the most important lifeblood in Burma. Millions of people are depending on the Irrawaddy for their livelihoods. It acts as a conduit of communication to over fifty million people." The report claimed that, "The hydropower development in Kachin State by constructing a series of large and medium dams may definitely impact on the people of Myanmar [Burma] as a whole, in addition to adverse impacts on riverine, aquatic, terrestrial and wetlands ecosystems ." The report further warned that, "The fragmentation of the Irrawaddy River by a series of dams will have very serious social and environmental problems not only at upstream of dams but also to very far downstream until the coastal delta." The report also warned that "Loss of Myitsone will be a terrible tragedy for all of Myanmar people, especially the Kachins."
The report also highlighted the danger of strong earthquakes: "The dam site is located less than 100 kilometers from Myanmar's earthquake-prone Sagaing fault line. The highly sensitive Sagaing fault line runs north-south through Myanmar (Burma). Earthquakes have been experienced at places along the fault line. Dam breakage would be disastrous for Myitkyina, the capacity of Kachin State, which lies only 40 kilometers (24 miles) downstream."
And the report made the following recommendation. "The best option would be to develop two smaller hydropower dams substituting the already proposed Myitsone Dam and its location at two appropriate locations above the confluence of the Malihka and Mayhka rivers."
The authors of the report also requested that their report be made available to the public and said that public opinions and discussions should be invited. In addition, they requested that CPI make a full-scale EIA by conducting nine other assessments on effects of the dam, a procedure set up by the Mekong River Commission. However, Chinese and Burmese authorities have never made the report public, and have ignored the call to conduct the remaining assessments. As of today, they continue to kill the Irrawaddy by force.
The Chinese government has been a staunch supporter of the Burmese regime since 1989. China supplies weapons to strengthen the Burmese military, provides loans and financial assistance to the regime to run its governing machine, protects the regime in the United Nations and other international forums, and tries to kill or water down any UN resolution that will take effective action against the regime for its human rights violations. Largely because of China's strong protection and support, the Burmese military regime has survived to this day, under the disguise of a so-called civilian government, successfully weathering international criticisms and pressure.
But the price the whole country has to pay back for Chinese protection of the military regime is enormous.
There have been many countries rushing to Burma to exploit its vast natural resources ever since the military regime opened its doors to a market economy. The reality, however, is that it is not real capitalism, but crony-capitalism. China is the most aggressive investor among them, and is sucking the country's blood everywhere it can set foot. Centuries-old evergreen forests in Kachin and Shan States were rooted out by Chinese logging companies. Many mountains are being destroyed by Chinese mine companies to search for gold, copper, sapphire and jade. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced and hundreds of villages have been destroyed along the route of construction of two pipelines that transport natural gas and oil to China from Burma's Rakhine (Arakan) State. Some major cities of Burma are now becoming like Chinese cities, as Chinese populations and their properties grow and expand dramatically. Actually, China has colonized Burma without shooting a gun and has sucked the life of the people of Burma with the help of the Burmese regime and its cronies. Now, they are killing the Irrawaddy River as well.
Tens of thousands of Chinese workers have been in Kachin State, using heavy machinery and building infrastructures for the Myitsone Dam project. Forests are being cut down. Valleys and plains are being dug up. Nearly 20,000 ethnic people are being forced to relocate. The Myitsone confluence will be destroyed and most of the major cities in Kachin State will be flooded and submerged when the dams are completed. But the harsh repercussions will be felt not just in Kachin state, but also downstream, as 60 percent of the people of Burma rely on the Irrawaddy's watershed.
After completion of the dam, the water flow from the N'Mai and Mali Rivers will be stopped by the dam and saved in the reservoir to generate electricity. The N'Mai and Mali Rivers will not be the origin of the Irrawaddy anymore, but rather the dam will be. The amount of water to be kept at all the times in the reservoir will drastically decrease the amount of water the Irrawaddy receives, and the flow of water in the river will be much weaker. It will create huge damage for the people living along the river, beginning with ships and vessels unable to sail in the shallow waters; fishermen unable to catch fish which can't survive in the polluted waters; farmers unable to grow rice and vegetables due to frequent draughts and lack of sufficient and steady water supplies; the spread and epidemic of infectious diseases from using and drinking contaminated water and lack of clean water; permanent losses of vulnerable and endangered species of birds, flowers, plants and fresh water animals; significant changes of ecosystem and climate; destruction of mangroves; in addition to other extensive damages. During the dry season, which lasts four months from February to May, due to the low volume of water coming from the upstream of the river, sea water from the Andaman Sea will flow back to the Delta region with high tidal water volume, and Burma's major rice production area will be flooded with salt-water. The Irrawaddy River may disappear in ten years, like the Yellow River in China.
This will be a major catastrophe for the people of Burma in terms of food security, health, society, the economy, poverty levels and politics.
The Burmese regime will receive about $500 million per year, 20 percent of the total revenue, when the project begins to generate and transport electricity to China. But this will amount to a tiny fraction of the losses the people of Burma will have to bear for generations.
The Chinese government has been aiding the Burmese regime in its crimes against humanity for many years. For decades, Burma's military regime has been carrying out scorched-earth campaigns against its own civilian population, destroying over 3,700 ethnic villages, using rape as a weapon of war, enslaving hundreds of thousands of Burmese people as forced laborers, recruiting tens of thousands of child soldiers into its army, killing innocent civilians, and forcing over 2 million people to flee their homes as refugees and internally displaced persons. Such flagrant crimes are not simply human rights abuses—they are mass atrocities, amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Compounding the brutality and magnitude of such international crimes is the system of impunity, which protects perpetrators and punishes victims.
Now, the Chinese government has crossed the line, stepped up further to commit its own human rights abuses in Burma by attempting to kill the Irrawaddy. Killing the Irrawaddy is destroying the lives of the people of Burma—both in the present and in the future—physically and mentally.
The Irrawaddy River is the past, present and future of Burma and major bloodline of the country.
It has many names, "Mother of Burma; Bride of Histories; the Great Magic of the Nature," and so on, that symbolize the people of Burma's great love for the river. Its water flow touches everybody's life. Many wars and national affairs have happened on its shoulders. Many historic events have passed with its current. No artists can draw a picture well enough to show the beauty of it. No composer can write a song sufficient to feel the magnificence of it. No poet can write a poem that demonstrates the sacrifice it made. No one will feel their lives valuable if there is no Irrawaddy in Burma. The people of Burma will stand up to protect their most beloved one. The Chinese government should stop building the Myitsone Dam and destroying the Irrawaddy before the growing anti-Chinese sentiment among the people of Burma dangerously explodes.
Aung Din was a student leader during the 1988 popular democracy uprising in Burma and he served over four years in prison as a political prisoner. He is now the Executive Director of Washington, DC-based US Campaign for Burma.
Burma's Largest Dam Project Will Have No Negative Impact: State Media
The Irrawaddy. Aug. 9, 2011
The construction of the Myitsone dam by a Chinese company in Kachin State in northern Burma will have no negative impact on the flow of the Burma's largest river, the Irrawaddy, nor on the lives and livelihoods of the local population, Burma's state-run claimed on Tuesday.
The comment came amid mounting criticism by environmental rights groups that the dam project located at the source of the Irrawaddy River will cause serious social and environmental problems for local people living both upstream and also far downstream, even as far away as the coastal areas of Burma.
Started in 2009, the 6,000 megawatt Irrawaddy Myitsone dam will only utilize 7.6 percent of the flow waters of the Irrawaddy; hence the dam project will have "no adverse effects whatever on the agriculture, businesses and social work,"a commentary in Myanma Alin newspaper claimed, adding that the project will create job opportunities for locals.
Environmental groups say the project will not only disrupt transportation of nutrients to the Irrawaddy delta, the provider of nearly 60 percent of Burma's rice, but will also submerge historical churches, temples and cultural heritage sites that are central to Kachin identity and history.
But the state media countered that the river's water flow would not be significantly affected, and that the water storage by the dam will only cause the water level to increase "1.5 feet higher than normal downstream the river in the dry season."
Under contract to China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) in partnership with Burma's Electricity Ministry of Electric Power-1 and private firm AsiaWorld, the dam will create a reservoir the size of New York and is expected to be completed by 2019. It has already displaced thousands of people in Kachin State.
The dam site is located within the Mizoram-Manipur-Kachin rainforest region, which is recognized as one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots and a global conservation priority. If completed, the project is expected to inundate approximately 766 square kilometers of this pristine rainforest.
According to Burma Rivers Network, CPI has ignored its own environmental assessment, conducted in 2009 by Burmese and Chinese scientists who warned that the majority of local people oppose construction of the dams and have called for the consultation and consent of affected peoples. The findings of the environmental assessment were never made public. The armed ethnic minority group Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has expressed its objection to the project to both the Burmese and Chinese governments. The KIA is currently engaged in armed clashes with Burmese government forces, which started in June near another Chinese-built hydropower plant in Kachin State.
The power plant -- which generates electricity for China's Yunnan Province -- has ceased to operate since the armed clashes. In an interview with The Irrawaddy, the KIA's deputy military chief Gun Maw said that the KIA is completely against the Myitsone dam project although it is open to negotiations with Chinese and Burmese governments over other dam projects in Kachin State.
Asked if the KIA will attack the ongoing dam project in the future, Gun Maw said, "We will not attack it. But just as China's hydropower plants near the fighting have been forced to a halt, so also will the same happen to the Myitsone dam project."
Suu Kyi Appeals for Megadam Review
The Irrawaddy. Aug. 11, 2011
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has issued a personal appeal to all concerned parties to review the ongoing dam projects in Kachin State, the main one being the 6,000-megawatt Myitsone dam which is being built at the source of the Irrawaddy River.
"Ecological change to the Irrawaddy would impact all those whose lives are linked to the great river, from the ethnic peoples in the northernmost state of our country to the rice-growing communities of the delta," Suu Kyi wrote in a statement released on Thursday. "To conserve the Irrawaddy is to protect our economy and our environment, as well as to safeguard our cultural heritage," she added.
"While recognizing that large sums of money have already been spent on the realization of the project, we would urge that in the interests of both national and international harmony, concerned parties should reassess the scheme and cooperate to find solutions that would prevent undesirable consequences and thus allay the fears of all who are anxious to protect the Irrawaddy," Suu Kyi said.
Dam construction on the Irrawaddy—often referred to as the "lifeline" of the country, because it flows through several of Burma's main cities— is being facilitated by the Burmese government and financed by China's state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI). However, the project has become a major talking point among Burmese in recent weeks as criticism by environmental rights groups mounts.
Environmentalists say the megadam project will cause serious social and environmental problems, and will directly affect people living both upstream and also far downstream, even as far away as the Irrawaddy delta and the coastal areas of Burma.
In May 2007, the Burmese military regime and CPI signed an agreement to build seven large dams in Kachin State by 2017. Upon completion, the project will have capacity to produce approximately 13,360-MW of electricity annually—which will not be for local consumption; it will be transferred to Yunnan Province to feed China's expanding energy needs.
Meanwhile, an environmental impact assessment, fully funded by CPI and conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientists—but which was obtained by Thailand-based Burma Rivers Network—said that the dams will threaten the biodiversity of the local ecosystem, as well as impacting millions of people who depend on the Irrawaddy River for their livelihoods.
The megadam project in Kachin State is deeply unpopular among the general population. Local communities in project areas have opposed the dams, not just because of their displacement, environmental impact and threats to cultural sites, but also because the site is located less than 100 kilometers from a major fault line, posing a risk to basin inhabitants should an earthquake weaken the dam structure or cause landslides in the reservoir.
"If the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam were to break during an earthquake, it would endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people by flooding Kachin State's largest city, Myitkyina," noted Burma Rivers Network on its website.
The Myitsone Dam is being constructed at the confluence of the Mali and N'Mai rivers. It is the largest among the seven dams, and is expected to produce 3,600 to 6,000 MW of electricity annually. When finished, it will be the 15th-largest hydroelectric power station in the world.
Under contract to the CPI in partnership with Burma's Electricity Ministry of Electric Power-1 and private firm AsiaWorld, the dam will create a reservoir the size of New York.
In July, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei said that "cooperation between China and Myanmar [Burma] is on the basis of mutual equality, and is in the interest of both countries' development and both countries' people."
The spokesman added that China pays close attention to ecological protection and requires Chinese companies operating outside its borders to obey local environmental and other laws.
The Burmese state media, in response to critical articles such as Aung Din's "Killing the Irrawaddy" has maintained that the project will have no negative impact on the flow of the Irrawaddy, nor on the lives and livelihoods of the local population.
Dams on Burma's Irrawaddy River Becomes a National Cause
Asian Tribune. Aug. 15, 2011
It was noteworthy, the Chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Lanyaw Zawng Hra sent an official letter dated May 16 to Hu Jintao, the President of the People's Republic of China urging China to stop the controversial Myitsone dam construction on Irrawaddy River in Kachin State of Burma, Kachin News Group (KNG) said on 23 May, 2011.
In the open letter the KIO warned Myitsone and six other hydroelectric power plant projects could lead to civil war between the KIA, the armed wing of the KIO, and the Burmese Army because Burmese troops have been deployed to the KIO control areas to provide security for the dam-construction projects.
According to Kachin News Group, numerous complaint letters concerning construction of the Myitsone dam have been sent to the Burmese and Chinese governments by local people, the Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA) and the KIO. However, no action has been taken to tackle the worries expressed by the Kachin community.
KIO's official letter to Hu Jintao says, "Except the Dam Project in Mali-N'mai Confluence (Myitsone dam), we have no objections against the other six Hydro Power Plant Projects. However, we have also informed the Asia World Co Ltd to make a decision only after assessing the consequences of the Dam Construction".
The Kachin Development and Networking Group (KDNG) has warned publicly that the Myitsone dam construction is going to displace 15,000 neighboring Kachin natives and millions of people living downstream of the dam construction location because of inundation.
According to the environmentalist group, thousands of people have been forced to move from their home villages near the 6,000-megawatt dam construction project site. The displaced villagers have to struggle finding new livelihoods, adequate healthcare services and education for their children at new villages, the watchdog group said.
In the past, Kachin people had made an official plea to the former junta's boss Senior-General Than Shwe to stop the project due to environmental damage. But he always turned a deaf ear to the call. The junta boss regularly obeys the rules of the Chinese authorities over the dam projects.
Construction at Myitsone began December 21, 2009, led by China's state owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) in cooperation with Burma's Asia World Company (AWC) and the Burmese government's No. 1 Ministry of Electric Power. Remarkably, AWC owner is former drug lord Lo Hsing Han. As a result, the KIO warned CPI employees not to enter its area in the dam construction sites north of the Mali-N'mai Rivers. The reason was that KIO has stopped cooperating with the Burmese government when the government discontinued the 1994 truce on September 1, 2010.
Environmental activists and researchers say the project will force Kachin villagers to abandon their homes and could face inundation of an area, the size of Singapore, all caused by the government's eagerness to satisfy China as it needs more power for its growing industrial zones.
According to Burma River Network, the Irrawaddy River provides vital nutrients to wetlands and floodplain areas downstream including the delta region which provides nearly 60% of Burma's rice. Changes to the river's flow and the blocking of crucial sediments will affect millions farmers throughout Burma and decrease rice production.
The watchdog network also pointed out that the dams will forever change Burma's main river ecosystem and an important Asian river. Eighty-four percent of the Irrawaddy River's water originates above the dam sites and will be affected by these dams. The network said that the dam is located 100 kilometers from a major fault line in an earthquake-prone area; if the dam breaks, it will flood Kachin State's capital city of 150,000 that lies just 40 kilometers downstream of the dam.
In a statement issued on 11 August, Burma's Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said the dam endangers the flow of the Irrawaddy River, which she described as "the most significant geographical feature of our country." She warned that 12,000 people from 63 villages have been relocated, although an article in the government-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper Wednesday reported that 2,146 people had been ordered to leave their homes and relocated.
Suu Kyi recently released a letter calling on promoters of the Myitsone dam project to reassess the plan, pointing out concerns that dams on the Irrawaddy River damage the environment, decrease rice production, dislodge ethnic peoples. Besides, it would hurt livelihoods of local communities and there is a risk of possible destructive earthquakes.
"We believe that, taking into account the interests of both countries, both governments would hope to avoid consequences which might jeopardize lives and homes," Suu Kyi emphasized. "To safeguard the Irrawaddy is to save from harm our economy and our environment, as well as to protect our cultural heritage," she added.
One can find an environmental impact assessment on Thailand-based Burma Rivers Network web-site which was conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientists. The 945-page "environmental impact assessment," fully funded by China's CPI Corporation and conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientists, recommends not proceeding with the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam. "There is no need for such a big dam to be constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River" says the assessment.
Building of dams has become also a rising political issue in China's relations with countries in Southeast Asia; a region increasingly dependent on the watercourse of rivers may perhaps reduce their capacity to irrigate paddy fields.
The Burmese government state media has continued saying that the Myitsone dam project will not produce negative impact on the watercourse of the Irrawaddy or on the livelihoods of the native inhabitants.
Local ethnic populace has been displaced from their homes to make way for dams and reservoirs. But construction companies close to the authorities benefit from those dams. They receive millions of dollars for designing and building dams. The government officials also gain black earnings in many ways – illegal taxes, kickbacks and inducement – during building of a dam.
Anyhow, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's most distinguished opposition figure, may heighten international reaction of the Myitsone dam project which seriously disapproved by environmental and human rights groups. The dam projects are, however, creating widespread political criticism countrywide for the national interest.
China-backed Myitsone Dam 'Suspended'
Democratic Voice of Burma. Sept. 30, 2011
Reports in local Burmese media claim construction of the controversial Myitsone Dam, which has been the target of rare but sustained protests in Burma, has been suspended.
The Weekly Eleven news journal said that a letter was sent to parliament today by President Thein Sein announcing a halt to operations in the country's northern Kachin state.
The project will not resume during his tenure as president, the 10-point letter claims. The Myanmar Times reports that it has been suspended for 10 years.
According to parliamentary law, Burma's president has unilateral power over some 30 decisions, including mining of natural resources and distribution of electricity. Whether he requires consent from parliament to suspend the dam is not clear.
It comes less than a fortnight after the government made seemingly contradictory comments regarding the future of the multi-billion dollar project being financed by Beijing. Electricity Minister-1 Zaw Min told a seminar on 18 September that the government would not back down on the dam, but may defer a final decision to the environment ministry.
Two days later, police arrested a lone protestor who had demonstrated against the project outside the the Chinese Cultural Office in Rangoon.
Upon completion, the Myitsone Dam had looked set to be the world's fifteenth tallest dam, pipping China's mammoth Three Gorges Dam.
Huge animosity has surrounded the development, aimed largely at the estimated displacement of 15,000 people and ecological damage to the Irrawaddy river. Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has thrown her weight behind the Save Irrawaddy campaign, which appears to be gathering momentum.
Burmese are also angry that the overwhelming majority of power generated by the dam will be sold to China, despite only 20 percent of the country's population having regular access to electricity.
Whether public disquiet triggered the rethink is unclear, although Thein Sein has enacted certain reformist measures aimed at placating local and international pressure on the government.
Despite the strategic and financial importance for both China and Burma, the project has not received high-level support across the board: an internal report in 2009 by the China Power Investment Corporation, the company behind the dam, said that its size was unneccesary, and called for it to be scrapped.
It is not yet clear what level of consultation took place between Thein Sein and his Chinese counterparts over the project's suspension.
Burma Dam Decision ‘Bewildering': CPI President
The Irrawaddy. Oct. 4, 2011
The president of China's state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), the main investor in the controversial Myitsone hydropower dam in Burma, said he was shocked by Burmese President Thein Sein's surprised announcement last week suspending the US $3.6 billion project.
"I also learned about this through the media and I was totally astonished. Before this, the Myanmar [Burmese] side never communicated with us in any way about the 'suspension,'" said CPI President Lu Qizhou in an extensive interview with the state-run China Daily newspaper on Monday.
Lauding the potential economic benefits of the project for Burma, Lu said the Burmese president's decision was "very bewildering" because Thein Sein himself urged CPI to accelerate work on the dam when he inspected it in February as the then prime minister of the ruling military regime.
Warning that a complete halt to construction would "lead to a series of legal issues," Lu said the two countries had already secured loans to pay for the $20 billion, seven-dam Ayeyawady [Irrawaddy] Hydropwer Project, of which the Myitsone dam is a key component. Future revenues from the project were to be used to repay the loans, he said.
Construction of the 6,000-megawatt Myitsone dam started in 2009 under an agreement signed three years earlier between CPI and Burma's Ministry of Electric Power 1 and Asia World, a privately owned Burmese conglomerate. CPI is contracted to operate the dam, which is located at the confluence of two rivers that form the source of the Irrawaddy River, for 50 years upon completion, after which it will transfer ownership to the Burmese government. Ninety percent of the energy generated will be sold to China. While news of the project's suspension has created a groundswell of public support for the Thein Sein government, it has clearly angered Beijing, which on Saturday called on Naypyidaw to protect the legal and legitimate rights of Chinese companies involved in the project.
In their responses to Thein Sein's announcement last Friday that the project would be suspended for the duration of his presidency, neither CPI nor the Chinese Foreign Ministry addressed Burmese public opposition to the project, which has grown in recent months into a broad-based movement that threatened to emerge as a serious challenge to Thein's Sein's newly formed government.
According to a political adviser to the president, no final decision has been made on whether to resume the project after the current government's tenure expires in early 2016.
Asked what kind of legal action the Burmese government could face from China over this issue, Grace Mang, a legal expert from International Rivers Network, an independent environmental group, said that it was unclear, since civil society has not been privy to the agreement between the government and CPI/Asia World Company. However, she said that if the project has merely been suspended, and not canceled outright, there may not be any significant legal consequences for the Burmese government.
The Burmese government may be required to pay compensation for losses incurred because of the suspension, but if it decides to cancel the project completely, it would become a case of state expropriation, which would be subject to international law, she said.
"This is not uncommon and is wholly within the Burmese government's legal rights. Countries do this all the time, usually in Latin America, where they take oil or gas reserves from foreign companies and want to operate them themselves. However, the Burmese government would be required to pay just terms," said Mang.
"Given that international law establishes clear rules for state expropriation, there is unlikely to be a legal crisis, but the Burmese government will probably be required to compensate for loss or pay just terms compensation," she added.
The suspension of the project may also have political repercussions for Burma's rulers, who over the past two decades have forged close ties with Beijing in the face of Western sanctions and international condemnation of their human rights record.
However, this is not the first time that Burma has taken its most important ally by surprise. In 2005, Burma's then military rulers moved the country's capital from Rangoon to Naypyidaw without informing Beijing in advance, and in 2009, they earned a rare rebuke from China when the Burmese army attacked an ethnic militia group based along the Sino-Burmese border, sending thousands of refugees fleeing into China.
It remains to be seen how the Burmese government will respond to China's reaction to the dam suspension, but both CPI and the Chinese government have clearly signaled that are intent on resuming the Myitsone project.
"I strongly hope that with unremitting efforts of relevant parties, this project can smoothly move forward on schedule, and mutual benefit and win-win result will become a reality for China and Myanmar," said CPI's Lu.
Dam Lies and Statistics
The Irrawaddy. Oct. 5, 2011
The Myitsone Dam Decision in Burma
Huffington Post. Oct. 5, 2011
David Scott Mathieson
Pipelines to China Become New Target for Burmese Activists
The Irrawaddy. Oct. 6, 2011
Chinese-backed strategic oil and natural gas pipelines under construction in Burma have become the new target for Burmese activists following President Thein Sein's suspension last week -- under heavy public pressure -- of the controversial Chinese-backed Myitsone Dam hydropower project in Kachin State.
Citing human rights violations, activists on Thursday called for the similar suspension of the US $ 2.5 billion oil and natural gas pipelines being constructed by state-owned China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). The pipelines are to start at the Bay of Bengal in Arakan State on Burma's western coast, travel through central and northeastern Burma, and end in Yunnan Province, China.
"Widespread land confiscation to make way for the pipeline corridor has already left countless people landless and jobless, while others along the pipeline are facing human rights violations and exploitation," said a group of Burmese activists from the Shwe Gas Movement, a campaign group opposing the exploitation of Burma's natural gas reserves, in a statement on Thursday.
The oil pipeline, which CNPC was granted exclusive rights to build and operate, is even more economically and strategically important to China than the $ 3.6 billion Myitsone Dam, which was expected to generate 6,000-megawatts of electricity that would be sent mostly to China.
The pipeline, with an estimated capacity of 20 million tons of crude oil per year that will enjoy tax concessions and customs clearance rights from the Burmese government, will enable China to bypass the Strait of Malacca when importing crude oil from the Middle East and Africa, saving an estimated 1,200 km shipping distance.
As part of the oil pipeline project, China is also constructing a deep-water crude oil unloading port and oil storage facilities on Burma's Maday Island off the coast of Arakan State—an investment that will provide China with crucial access to the geopolitically strategic Indian Ocean, where the US is poised to increase its navy presence in the coming decade.
The gas pipeline, scheduled to be completed in 2013, will be used to transport Burmese natural gas from the Shwe Natural Gas Fields located off the Arakan coast to Yunnan Province.
The pipeline projects have angered the people and politicians in Arakan State, which is rich with Burma's largest oil and natural gas reserves but has a poor electricity supply.
On Sept 27, Ba Shin, an opposition MP representing Kyaukphyu Island off the Arakan coast, submitted a question to the national Parliament in Naypyidaw, asking whether his constituency would receive a share of the natural gas extracted from the Shwe Natural Gas Fields for the purpose of improving the island's electricity supply.
In response, Energy Minister Than Htay reminded Ba Shin that the previous military government awarded China the right to purchase and export the natural gas generated by the Shwe Natural Gas Fields for the next 30 years, and therefore the gas was unavailable for local use.
"People opposed the Myitsone Dam because they don't want their natural resources being used to line the pockets of the regime and corporations with atrocious reputations, all at the expense of local people. The Shwe Gas Project must be stopped, recognizing that like the dam, it will be destructive socially and economically," said Wong Aung, an Arakan activist with the Shwe Gas Movement.
On Monday, China's Xinhua news agency reported that construction of the pipeline was "proceeding smoothly" and that CNPC said it gave $1.3 million to Burma this week to help build eight schools in the country, as part of an agreement signed in April to provide $6 million of aid.
"Construction of the fourth stage of the oil and gas pipeline [within Burma] commenced on October 1, which is being built by CNPC Chuanqing Drilling Engineering Co. The pipeline project will continue after the rainy season in Myanmar [Burma]," Xinhua said.
Any major obstacle to pipeline construction, such as the broad-based public movement which prompted the Burmese president to suspend the Myitsone Dam project, could be a devastating blow to China-Burma relations.
Napyidaw's decision to suspend construction of the Myitsone Dam has already angered Beijing, which has called for the protection of the legal rights of the Chinese companies that have invested in the project. In addition, the lead Chinese investor in the dam project warned the Burmese government of possible legal action.
Jim Della-Giacoma, the South East Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, said that the Myitsone Dam crisis has the potential to weaken the Sino-Burma relationship, particularly if it comes to be seen as some sort of strategic rebalancing of Burma's international relations.
"The relationship is deeper and wider than just one dam, but this is clearly a significant decision that probably involves environmental, political and other factors," he said in an interview with The Irrawaddy.
But since Naypyidaw's decision is apparently part of a more calculated effort by Thein Sein to win support from the Burmese public for his reform agenda and improve Burma's standing in the West while still retaining close ties with China, the new president is expected to appease China by offering economic concessions and ensuring the successful continued construction of the pipelines.
However, even if the same type of public resistance that formed in the case of the Myitsone Dam project does not materialize, the oil and natural gas pipelines will still pass through conflict zones in northeastern parts of Burma, where Shan and Kachin rebels are operating. Military clashes between government troops and those ethnic armed groups have been ongoing since June and have escalated over the past few weeks.
Meanwhile, according to unconfirmed reports, Burma's Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo will visit China in the next few days, leading a delegation of government ministers, including the minister of the Ministry of Electric Power No. 1, possibly in an effort to patch-up the relationship strained by Myistone Dam suspension.
Kachin NGO Questions Myitsone Dam Suspension
Mizzima. Oct. 17, 2011
There is "no evidence on the ground that the [Myitsone] dam project has indeed been suspended," the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) said in a statement released on Friday.
"Despite the announcement from Burma's president, there has been no confirmation from the project manager, China Power Investment Corporation (CPI)," said the press statement.
The KDNG said that until the CPI confirms the announcement of the suspension of the Myitsone Dam project and six other planned hydropower projects, the projects could "go ahead at any time."
The statement followed President Thein Sein's announcement of the suspension of construction on the Myitsone Dam Project at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River. Villagers, who have been removed from the area, are still "living in a state of uncertainty and fear," the statement said.
According to the KDNG, villagers who have been forced to move from the construction areas and are living in relocation camps have reported that they have seen workers continuing to operate at the site. There are two relocation camps where about 1,000 people are situated, Ah Nan, a KDNG spokesperson, told Mizzima.
On other environmental issues, destructive mining activities still continue in the area, the KDNG reported. "Gold mining and logging that are also destroying the Myitsone and the Irrawaddy rivers are actively going on at the Myitsone and upstream of Myitsone. If the dams are really stopped, all these destructive activities should stop immediately," a villager at the dam site told KDNG.
Land confiscation and forced eviction for construction projects is rife in Burma. Ah Nan told Mizzima on Monday that KDNG had obtained a letter written on October 5 that had been sent to villagers living around the gold mining site, ordering them to vacate the area by October 10.
The letter, sent by Nyein Tun Kyaw, a government official in Myitkyina Township, said that all persons except personnel from the Hka Ka Bo Mining Co. Ltd in Tan Pha Ye village had to leave. It said that any mining performed by persons other than from the Hka Ka Bo company was illegal, and "violators will be punished in accordance with existing laws." The KDNG said that traditional gold mining has taken place in the area for years.
After the dam plans were announced, mining and logging concessions were granted in order to clear out the dam site. Large-scale gold mining at the site began in 2010, leaving toxic mercury and cyanide that are used in the mining process to be dumped without regulation into the rivers, the KDNG said. An Nan told Mizzima that the Hka Ka Bo Mining Company Limited and the government's mining ministry no.2 had been given joint venture rights to mine concessions at the dam site.
On September 30, in response to President Thein Sein's announcement of a moratorium on construction, the activist group Burma Rivers Network said, "Until the Chinese project holders publicly declare their cancellation of the Myitsone Dam and pull out from the dam site, we must assume the project is going ahead."
The KDNG report released on Friday features photographs taken since the announcement of work continuing in progress on the Myitsone Dam project. One photo taken on Friday, shows Chinese workers downstream from the dam site taking land surveys between Lahpye and Tawngban villages. They have also documented active construction using heavy machinery since September 30.
Most Chinese workers had already left the site before September 30, but this did not reflect a genuine halt on construction, but was "most likely due to the rainy season conditions." A promotional video produced by Sinohydro (a Chinese state-owned hydroelectric power and construction company hired by CPI to build the dam) stated that workers around the dam site could only work for seven months in a year.
"The CPI staff told us they would work with the Burmese government and not to worry for our jobs. He told us, please wait at the project site; after rainy season, we will continue the project, so don't take back the trucks and equipment," an Asia World employee told KDNG.
Asia World is a Burmese conglomerate that partnered with Burma's state power utility Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) and Chinese state-owned electrical company China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) on the dam project.
Thein Sein's move to suspend the project until 2016 shocked China. CPI chairman Lu Qizhou called the move "bewildering." Lu Qizhou told Xinhua, a Chinese news agency, on October 3, "In February this year, Burma's prime minister urged us to accelerate the construction when he inspected the project site, so the sudden proposal of suspension now is very bewildering. If suspension means a construction halt, then it will lead to a series of legal issues."
He also remarked that, "I am totally astonished to hear the news of suspending this project. Under the announcement of halting this project, we must stop all of our construction work there."
Rebounding from the decision to suspend the project, Naypyitaw then moved to presumably secure ties and quell China's concerns, by sending Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to visit Beijing on October 10. It was reported that he went to discuss Naypyitaw's decision to suspend the project and come to an agreeable arrangement for both parties. According to Xinhua, Wunna Maung Lwin met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Chinese Foreign Minister Yan Jiechi during his visit, and "pledged to work towards the mutual benefit of the two countries."
AFP quoted the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weiman, who said the meeting had been arranged "to handle this project in the proper way and continue to move forward with bilateral relations, which are very important to us."
It was reported that Naypyitaw would compensate China for the halt of the Myitsone project. In an interview with the Irrawaddy, presidential advisor Dr Nay Zin Latt told the news group that Burma might have to compensate China in the form of granting economic concessions. "I don't think we have to pay them back in the form of billions of dollars... Using revenues from other sources, not only from Myitsone, we can repay the loan. For example, we can pay back using revenues from the gas pipeline to China."
The sale of gas from the Shwe gas pipeline project is set to be operational in 2013, and is estimated will earn Naypyitaw US$ 29 billion in revenues over the next 30 years.
In the Friday statement, KDNG reported that construction on the main dam has not yet begun, but that several diversion tunnels and containment walls surrounding the sites have been completed. A supply road, railway, and a 600 metre long suspension bridge south of the dam site that will link the project supply headquarters in Tengchong, China, to the construction site, are nearly completed.
KDNG and other environmental and campaign groups have been urging the cancellation of all seven hydropower dams planned by China. "All of these dams will export electricity to China and will have the same negative impacts as the Myitsone dam. Building these mega dams will cause irreparable environmental destruction, unpredictable water surges and shortages, and inflict social and economic damage to the millions who depend on the Irrawaddy. Thousands of Kachin villagers will also be forced to relocate," said the KDNG statement.
Large-scale Gold Mining on Rivers to be Shut Down; Panning OK
Mizzima. Oct. 28, 2011
Small-scale panning for gold will be allowed on Burma's rivers and streams, but permits for large-scale mining will not be renewed when they expire in one year, according to the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River System (DWRIRS).
"The lifetime of gold mining permits is just one year. In the past, they could renew a permit. Now, gold mining permits cannot be renewed. So, it is not allowing gold mining [in the future]," an official from Mining Enterprise No. 2 said.
In the past, the government allowed three types of gold mining along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers: small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale.
In September, Mining Enterprise No. 2 announced that it would not allow large-scale gold mining in the rivers, streams and creeks of Burma. But, traditional small-scale panning for gold would still be allowed.
"We cannot forbid people who have to rely on traditional panning for gold from doing it. As usual, there will still be people who pan for gold by using pans and sieves, but they cannot harm the river," an official from DWRIRS told Mizzima on condition of anonymity. The government banned gold mining to prevent rivers from being damaged, according to officials.
Most of the companies along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers operate gold mines using machinery, and their practices can cause water pollution and harm the environment.
Small-scale gold miners pay 260,000 (about US$ 360) kyat per year; medium-scale gold miner pay 35 per cent of the gold discovered; and large-scale gold miners pay 50 per cent of the gold discovered as taxes to government, an official from the Ministry of Mines said on condition of anonymity.
According to environmental NGOs and other groups, in 1997, the Burmese government began giving gold mining concessions to Burmese businessmen. Land was often confiscated and villagers were denied access to upland farms. Many villagers had no alternative source of livelihood so they formed small groups and sold their land to invest in machinery and obtained gold mining permits. Traditionally villagers depended on rivers and forestlands for their livelihoods and cultural practices. The local environment has been severely affected in many areas.
A report by the Burma Environmental Working Group in June 2011 said gold mining operations have drained water sources, increased soil erosion, and polluted rivers with mercury and other chemicals. Mercury is highly toxic to the environment and poses serious risks to public health. The vast majority of toxic wastes from gold extraction processes is disposed of untreated directly onto land and into waterways, effectively poisoning the soil and compromising water quality. Mercury and other toxics are biomagnifying in food chains and accumulate in the tissues of living organisms, with negative effects on flora and fauna, local biodiversity and human health.
Gold Digging Takes Toll on Irrawaddy River
Democratic Voice of Burma. Nov. 3, 2011
Environmental damage caused by intensive gold digging along the Irrawaddy river has triggered health problems among locals in the Kachin state town ofBhamo, where authorities have allowed the practice to continue unrestrained.
High levels of mercury and cyanide used to detonate areas of the river bed are getting into water sources around the town, one Bhamo resident, compounding concerns about pollution caused by engine oil from the estimated 300 boats that, day and night, work the section of the river for gold.
"There are no more fish in the river and as most people here just drink water out of the river, they are suffering illnesses that cause vomiting," said one man. "Doctors can't identify what the illness is. The water has also gone cloudy due to the breaking down of river banks."
Two companies, Thandar Shwe Zin and For Luck, who originally gained permission to explore the area for gold, have reportedly contracted out work to local diggers who pay one million kyat ($US1,150) per boat. Now they work there en masse.
"The boats carry this large machinery to pan gold. They blow away the water and suck in the soil; they use mercury, cyanide and acid," he continued, adding that chemical dumps on land close to the river were not properly containing the waste. "It's just right next to our village – now you can't find the dolphins anymore, and we sometimes see large fish dying."
The increasing numbers of sand banks forming in the middle of the river had also caused knock-on erosion along the banks. As a result that section of the Irrawaddy river, which runs the length of Burma and whose diverse ecosystem sustains millions, has widened by some 200 metres in recent years. "When it rains, water can flow into villages, causing cliffs to collapse and bringing houses along with them," the man said.
Similar destruction along the Irrawaddy river in the Kachin state region of Myitsone brought operations to a halt last year, but Bhamo residents claim little is being done to rein in the rapacious digging around the town.
Why the Hurry to Reach a Ceasefire?
The Irrawaddy. Aug. 4, 2011
Saw Yan Naing
Two months after fighting broke out between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), ending a 16-year ceasefire, Naypyidaw is redoubling its efforts to end hostilities in Kachin State, even suggesting that it might be open to nationwide talks aimed at easing ethnic tensions elsewhere in the country.
La Nan, the joint-secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, said that an agreement has not yet been reached, but noted that in the latest round of negotiations, held earlier this week in Lajayang, Kachin State, the government delegation, led by Col Than Aung, seemed uncharacteristically ready to compromise.
Naypyidaw still hasn't agreed to announce a nationwide political dialogue within 15 days of the ceasefire coming into effect, as demanded by the leaders of the KIO, but there has been a notable change in the government's willingness to at least discuss the idea.
In one recent letter, the Burmese government said that it agreed to attempt to reach a temporary ceasefire, to be followed by further dialogue aimed at achieving long-term peace in the country. "We've never heard this tone from the government before. They've always avoided this sort of thing in the past. But this time, they're not just talking about a ceasefire, but also long-term peace and political dialogue," said La Nan.
However, it remained unclear why Naypyidaw is suddenly pushing for an early ceasefire with the KIO. "They seem to be trying to come closer to our position. The way they are speaking now makes us more inclined to accept their call for a ceasefire. But we want to proceed slowly, and they seem to be in a hurry to sign a deal and continue further talks in the future," said La Nan.
To further encourage the KIO to agree to a ceasefire, Naypyidaw said it would bring 58 witnesses, including Kachin elders from social and religious organizations, to attend the signing of an agreement between the government and the KIO leaders. However, the sticking point remains the KIO's insistence on a nationwide dialogue that includes other ethnic armies. Under the current agreement proposed by the government, both sides would stop fighting within 48 hours of signing a deal.
Clashes between government and KIA troops first broke out on June 9, after months of tensions over the KIA's refusal to join a proposed Border Guard Force (BGF) established by the Burmese Army. Almost every other ceasefire ethnic army similarly balked at the BGF proposal, setting the stage for a showdown with the newly installed government formed in March by the winners of last year's heavily rigged election.
Some observers said that Naypyidaw's efforts to avert any worsening of the situation in Kachin State could be related to its bid to assume the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2014 -- a move that would go far toward legitimizing the outcome of the Nov 7 election.
The biggest obstacle to winning the chairmanship is opposition by the regional grouping's Western trade and strategic partners, particularly the US. In June, the US raised concerns over the renewed violence in Kachin State and other regions of the country and called on Naypyidaw to halt hostilities with ethnic armed groups. It also said the conflicts underscore the need for an inclusive dialogue between the Burmese government and opposition and ethnic minority groups to begin a process of genuine national reconciliation. Other observers have suggested that the government's sudden eagerness to end the conflict could be a result of its desire to preempt any attempt by the democratic opposition, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, to get involved. On July 28, three days after a rare meeting with a senior government minister, Suu Kyi sent an open letter to President Thein Sein and leaders of ethnic armed groups calling for a ceasefire and offering to play a role in efforts to achieve a lasting political solution to the country's ethnic divisions.
It was not clear if Suu Kyi and minister Aung Kyi, discussed the situation in Kachin State, but some have suggested that they may have agreed to cooperate on the issue during their talks, adding that Naypyidaw may be prepared to allow Suu Kyi to participate in ceasefire efforts in order to improve its international image.
It seems far more likely, however, that the government is hoping to head off any talk of Suu Kyi's involvement in this highly sensitive matter by resolving it before her offer wins any further support from ethnic armed groups, many of whom say they would welcome her participation.
Zipporah Sein, the general-secretary of the Karen National Union, said that if the government really wanted to achieve ethnic reconciliation with Suu Kyi's help, it would probably succeed. However, she said she doubted that Naypyidaw is interested in achieving genuine peace.
"If they want a ceasefire, all they have to do is stop attacking ethnic people. Ethnic armed groups don't go into the cities to attack them; they come into the ethnic areas to attack us. If they stopped, there would be peace across the country," she said.
Some, however, believe that Thein Sein's government is sincere about wanting to bring peace to Burma. Nay Zin Latt, a member of the Burmese president's political advisory board, told The Irrawaddy that Thein Sein has a plan to end conflict with ethnic armed groups, but it would take a long time to achieve lasting results.
Meanwhile, in Kachin State, the government appears to be keen not to waste any more time. "I don't know what they will do if we sign the agreement. But they seem to really want it soon," said La Nan.
The Long Wait for a Ceasefire
The Irrawaddy. Aug. 11, 2011
Despite three meetings over the last two months between Burmese army representatives and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), no agreement has been hatched that would end hostilities and bring about a ceasefire.
The government's negotiation team is led by Col. Than Aung, a Burman national who is Minister for Security and Border Affairs in the Kachin State assembly. On the other side of the table Brig-Gen Sumlut Gun Maw, the vice-chief of staff in the KIO's military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Both sides agreed on the town of Lajayang -- some two hours drive from state capital Myitkyina -- as a venue for negotiations, strategically situated as it is at the invisible border where government territory meets the KIO-controlled zone.
The first meeting was held on June 30. Constructive talks were held, and both delegations retired from the two-hour meeting with an agenda to consider, and they pledged to sit around the negotiation table again in the near future.
Then, on July 28, just a few days before the second round of talks, the KIO presented the government negotiators with their draft of a ceasefire. However, by the time the follow-up meetings concluded on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2, it was clear that the chasm of mistrust and doubt was too wide to bridge. An apparent hurdle was the questionable choice of Than Aung as a government negotiator.
A KIO video of the Aug. 2 meeting was released to The Irrawaddy. Sitting morosely at the table, Than Aung is seen to read a prepared statement from a notebook. He drones monotonously, and when discussions begin, appears at a loss for words. He repeats the line that he will pass on suggestions to his superiors.
The Kachins despaired, believing that their counterpart had no authority to make meaningful decisions. At one point, he referred to ex Brig-Gen Thein Zaw, a MP from Myitkyina and a secretary of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) as ahba, meaning "father," a common title that juniors use for senior officers in the Burmese military.
Than Aung then called for Thein Zaw and another senior USDP member, Aung Thaung, to act as third party witnesses for the "Gentlemen's Agreement" that was proposed. KIO officials thought this was a joke, as both men were staunchly pro-government. Than Aung left the Kachin delegation with the impression that Naypyidaw were insincere in their negotiations, and were offended that the government would send someone so unqualified to deal with them.
"We also argued repeatedly on the definition of the government's words "Forever Peace." said Gun Maw. "In 2009, Lt-Gen Ye Myint [former Chief of Military Affairs Security] also used that expression when he came to announce the government proposal for a BGF [Border Guard Force]." The KIO and other ethnic armed groups believed the BGF proposal was no more than a thinly veiled plan to disarm them.
At the Aug. 2 meeting, Than Aung also told his Kachin counterparts that the parliament might form a committee headed by Thein Zaw to deal with the issue of ethnic conflicts during the upcoming sessions on August 22. "We will wait for tomorrow with the best of hopes," Than Aung told the Kachin delegation, leaving them with the impression that a ceasefire could be signed the following day.
But, for the KIO leaders, it's a case of "Tomorrow Never Comes" as the government negotiating team has still failed to respond to the KIO's draft. Another question is the new alliance of ethnic armed groups, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), founded in February, which includes the KIO, the Karen National Union, the Shan State Army, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the New Mon State Party.
The KIO negotiation team asked the government team what the common stance would be toward a national ceasefire as they [the KIO] were but one of several members of the UNFC, said Gun Maw, adding that after breaking 16 years of ceasefire, the alliance would require a common stance regarding peace talks.
"Despite numerous differences between the ethnic-minority groups, and a failure to act together in the past, the formation of the UNFC in February 2011 marks a new attempt by these organizations to show a united front, supporting each other in an effort to gain greater autonomy and bring an end to human-rights abuses by the military," the Economist Intelligence Unit said in its August report on Burma. "As part of this strategy, the UNFC has called on the government to negotiate ceasefires with all armed groups, rather than on a case-by-case basis," it reported.
Kyaw Hsan Comments ‘Nonsense': KIO
The Irrawaddy. Aug. 15, 2011
Sai Zom Hseng
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has derided comments about the 1994 ceasefire agreement made by Burma's Information Minister Kyaw Hsan at a press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday, calling his statement "rootless" and "nonsense."
Kyaw Hsan, who has led the government delegation in negotiations with the KIO over the last two months, said on Friday that the KIO "needs to analyze itself to ascertain whether it wants genuine peace or not." He also accused the KIO and its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), of destroying the 1994 ceasefire agreement between the two sides.
The joint-secretary of the KIO, La Nan, ridiculed Kyaw Hsan's interpretation of the ceasefire agreement and suggested that he might have got it confused with truces the government had signed with other groups. Burma's state-run The New Light of Myanmar on Saturday quoted Kyaw Hsan as saying that the 1994 ceasefire stated that both parties should: "(1) Not to extend troops, (2) Discontinue all illegal activities including extortion, (3) Carry out activities only within the fixed area and any movement outside the fixed area is prohibited, etc." [sic]
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, La Nan said, "Principles 1 and 2 were not included in the agreement that we agreed and signed in 1994, but we did make an agreement similar to that quoted in Principle 3. "The wording is: 'Someone can carry out activities with arms outside the area if he/she gets permission from the opposite group.' "I'm not sure if U Kyaw Hsan was talking about an agreement that they signed with another ethnic group," the KIO joint-secretary said.
According to La Nan, the 1994 ceasefire agreement contains nine principles that were agreed to by the KIO and the Burmese government. He said Maj-Gen Aye Kyaw, Maj-Gen Saw Lwin and military intelligence officer Lt-Col. Kyaw Thein signed the agreement 17 years ago as the representatives of the Burmese government.
When the KIO/KIA refused to transform its battalions into a Border Guard Force under Burmese army command, tensions increased and clashes broke out between the two armies in February, effectively ending the 17-year truce.
Since then, thousands of local people from in Kachin State's Momauk, Mansi and Bahmo townships have left their homes and fled as skirmishes between KIA troops and the Burmese army neared. Most have taken refuge either in Laiza or in makeshifts camps along the Chinese border.
At Fridays' press conference, Union Minister Kyaw Hsan went on to accuse the KIO/KIA of "exploiting honest and sincere local people" by encouraging villagers to become refugees, and that they have been conducting propaganda campaigns through the international media with a view to receiving financial assistance and aid.
La Nan claimed that the Kachin movement did not receive assistance from the international community, but just donations from Kachin people working overseas. "The Burmese authorities denied the NGOs [non-government organizations] and CBOs [community-based organizations] access to the refugees and disallowed them from giving assistance," said La Nan. "So how can we get money from them?"
Both sides have sat for negotiations three times over the past two months, however no agreement to call a ceasefire has been reached. Earlier this month, the Burmese delegation announced it would call a temporary halt of fire by the Burmese army.
The KIO has said that if the Burmese government does not guarantee to a ceasefire with all the ethnic armed groups, the situation will not improve, and that the ethnic groups will only accept a political dialogue that is initiated through the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), the umbrella group representing the ethnic armies.
Meanwhile, The New Light of Myanmar reported on Saturday that the UNFC was established by insurgents. The New Mon State Party, the Chin National Front, the Karenni National Progressive Party, the Shan State Army, the Karen National Union and the KIO are the members of the UNFC.
Ban to Hold Meeting on Burma, as KIO Calls for UN Help
The Irrawaddy. Sept. 27, 2011
Lalit K Jha
Washington -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepares to hold a meeting of his "Group of Friends on Burma" on Tuesday to discuss the current situation in the country, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) is calling on the world body to take a more active role in resolving its armed conflicts.
Several ministers from key countries are expected to participate in the meeting of the "Group of Friends," a consultative forum for developing a shared approach in support of the implementation of the secretary-general's good offices mandate in Burma.
Among its key members are Australia, Indonesia, Russia, the United States, China, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, France, Norway, Thailand, India, Portugal and Britain. Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, who is in New York to attend this year's session of the UN General Assembly, is expected to attend the meeting.
The announcement of the meeting came on the same day that KIO President Lanyaw Zawng Hra wrote to Ban seeking UN assistance in ending Burma's civil war. In his five-page letter, Lanyaw said that ethnic conflict in Burma directly affects regional development and the stability of neighboring countries.
The KIO urged the international community, including the UN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Burma's neighbors, to help the country find a way to end its civil war and finally achieve national reconciliation.
"Despite the fact that Burma achieved independence in I 948 as the Union of Burma, it has been operating as a Unitary System, rather than practicing a true federal system as agreed to by independence leader Gen. Aung San and ethnic leaders," the letter said.
Lanyaw said that over the past 60 years, successive governments have ignored agreements with ethnic groups and broken promises to build a federal union. "In fact they have found new ways to suppress the concerns of the ethnic minority people; continuing to ignore our basic rights despite our willingness to resolve these differences through peaceful means," he wrote.
"This ongoing disrespect of our original agreement ensured by the Burman majority rulers has driven the ethnic minority to maintain arms to protect our peoples and to ensure our basic rights, self-determination and promised autonomy inside our own lands," he wrote.
Claiming that since independence in 1948, the ethnic minority territories have been pushed to the outer edges of the country bordering all of the neighboring nations, the letter said the civil war is happening in almost all of the border areas of Burma.
"One can interpret this civil war as a people's war to secure equal rights for not only the ethnic minority, but also the problems of unequal development in the country. It also presents a very complex set of national security issues. As such, these civil wars are not only the concern of our own country but also viewed as problematic and burdensome for our neighboring nations," he said.
Naypyitaw Rep meets Ethnic Delegations
Shan Herald Agency for News. Nov. 21, 2011
U Aung Min, minister of railway transport and special representative of President Thein Sein, met delegations from Shan, Karen, Karenni, Chin and Kachin armed movements, Saturday, 19 November, at an undisclosed location on the Thai-Burmese border.
Three of the groups had reportedly agreed to sign the ceasefire agreement with respective state governments:
- Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS)
- Karen National Union (KNU)
- Chin National Front (CNF)
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), meanwhile, agreed to hold further peace talks first before signing the ceasefire treaty.
The only major ethnic armed group that failed to appear at what has been termed as "the good will meeting" was the New Mon State Party (NMSP). It had unsuccessfully insisted on U Aung Min meeting the negotiating committee formed by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). (KNU, CNF, KNPP and KIO are also UNFC members)
The Saturday meeting on the border closely followed Asean's approval of Burma assuming the grouping's chair in 2014 as well as Aung San Suu Kyi's decision to re-register her National League for Democracy (NLD) and contest the upcoming by elections.
Heads of the said delegations were: Sao Yawdserk (RCSS), David Taw (KNU), Bee Htoo (KNPP), Zin Cung (CNF) and N Ban La (KIO).
Kachin Peace Talks Inflamed by War Rhetoric
The Irrawaddy. Nov. 28, 2011
Sai Zom Hseng
As the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) prepares for peace talks with a Burmese government delegation, a Kachin spokesman says that the group is concerned about recent government comments that the Burmese army could "annihilate" them in one day.
A government delegation led by Thein Zaw and Aung Thaung, both of whom are ex-military generals, are due to meet six Kachin representatives on Tuesday in the Chinese border town of Ruili in Yunnan Province, according to KIO Joint-secretary La Nan.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, he said, "The president has already used the word 'annihilate' in the context of defeating the KIO while discussing the matter at the Asean summit in Indonesia recently."
On Nov. 18, Burmese President Thein Sein answered questions at an Asean press conference about the ongoing conflict between government troops and the KIA. In his remarks he said that it was impossible to hold negotiations with all the ethnic groups at the same time, and that bilateral talks were always necessary. He also said that if the Burmese armed forces truly wanted to annihilate the KIA, they could do so "within a day."
La Nan said that the Burmese army's recent military offensive against the group's military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has been more intense than ever. He noted, however, that although the president had boasted that his forces could defeat the Kachins in a day, the fighting was still going on some six months later.
He said that the Burmese army has deployed infantry divisions in their offensive against the Kachin rebels, and that they had brought in an additional 8,000 to 10,000 troops. He said that clashes are mostly breaking out in the Man Wing Gyi region and west of the KIO/ KIA headquarters in Laiza.
Military observers say that the Burmese army has a total army strength of 400,000 troops while the KIA has no more than 6,000 to 10,000 soldiers. "In my understanding, infantry divisions are only supposed to be deployed when defending the nation from foreign invasion. We totally denounce their tactics -- this is not an international conflict," said La Nan.
Despite the disparity in troop strength, clashes have continued since June, forcing some 30,000 local villagers to flee their homes and take sanctuary elsewhere.
The KIO/KIA signed a ceasefire with the Burmese military regime in 1994, becoming one of the first ethnic militias to agree terms with the former government.
La Nan did not want to disclose the agenda of Tuesday's negotiations; but Aung Kyaw Zaw, a military observer based at the Sino-Burmese border, said that the KIO will air its usual condition: the withdrawal of Burmese troops from the region. However, he said he did not believe the current KIO delegation could influence Naypyidaw.
Although the government has held or is due to hold peace talks with other ethnic armed groups, including the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army, Aung Kyaw Zaw predicted that hostilities between the Burmese army and the KIA would continue indefinitely.
The KIO met previously with government delegations in June and in August. Naypyidaw's delegations were then led by Minister of Border Affairs Col. Than Aung.
Burmese government and KIO meet in China
Mizzima News. November 30, 2011
A Burmese government peace delegation and top Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) leaders met for two hours on Tuesday in Shweli in China's Yunnan Province to seek a cease-fire. No details of the talks were disclosed, but KIO officials said it was noteworthy that the KIO chairman attended the meeting.
A spokesman, Hting Nan Aslos, said: "Our chairman went to the meeting because we would like to show that we want a political dialogue. We're showing that we want to hold peace talks."
On the other hand, KIO spokesman La Nang said that government troops on Tuesday set fire to 60 houses in two Shan villages in Daw Phung Yang sub-township in Kachin State.
Meanwhile, the government has reinforced its troops in Kachin State, said KIO officials. Nearly every day, fighting breaks out in Mansi and Momauk townships in Kachin State and the areas controlled by Brigade No. 4 of Shan State Army-North, officials said. There were 709 clashes between the KIO and government troops from June until November 28, according to La Nang.
The government peace delegation included Rail Transportation Minister Aung Min; Thein Zaw, the chairman of the Lower House National Race Affairs and Internal Peace-making Committee; and Aung Thaung, the chairman of the Lower House banking and financial development sub-committee. They met with a KIO delegation of six leaders including KIO chairman Zawng Hra at a hotel in Shweli in Yunnan Province.
Upper House Speaker Hkyet Hting Nan of the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State (UDPKS), who is also a member of the Kachin State Peace and Stability, accompanied the central government delegation. Also attending the meeting were representatives of the Kachin people including Jade Land Company owner Yup Zaw Khaung, Iamai Gum Ja, Ing Sin San Aung and singer Hkabya Hkung Aung.
KIO officials said that they hoped U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Burma, which starts on Wednesday, would change Burma political climate. "The U.S. government should recognize our ethnic people. I would like to tell the U.S. government to put the Burmese government under pressure to protect ethnic people's rights and to hold a political dialogue," La Nang said.
On November 19 and 20, Minister Aung Min met with three KIO leaders as a preliminary step in Mae Sai, Thailand.
KIA Calls for Political Dialogue
The Irrawaddy. Nov. 30, 2011
Sai Zom Hseng
Leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) met on Tuesday with a Burmese government delegation in the Chinese border town of Ruili, Yunnan Province, and demanded that the parties begin a political dialogue with the goal of reaching a political solution to the ongoing conflict in Kachin State. The meeting was attended by high-ranking officials from both sides. The KIO delegation was led by its chairman, Lanyaw Zawng Hkra, and the government delegation was led by Aung Thaung and Thein Zaw, who are both currently union ministers and were former military brass in the previous regime. Lanyaw Zwang Hkra said in a statement released on Wednesday that he decided to personally attend the meeting because the issues to be discussed were clearer than they had previously been.
The statement also said that: "The political system is the root cause of the problems between the KIO and the government in Kachin and Shan states; the problems and the civil war must be solved by political means; and the KIO does not believe that peace can be achieved using military methods."
The KIO signed a ceasefire with the Burmese military regime in 1994, becoming one of the first ethnic armed groups to agree to terms with the ex-junta. Clashes between the government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the KIO, erupted in June and soon spread to northern Shan State, where KIA Brigade 4 is based. The KIA's second-in-command, Brig-Gen Gun Maw, said that the KIO has highlighted the issue of a political dialogue and solution and the government delegation stated that a ceasefire is their main issue.
"We denounced the president's remark that the government can ‘annihilate' us ‘within a day,'" Gun Maw told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. "The government said that they are near to signing ceasefire agreements with the other ethnic armed groups that they are currently talking with." Burma's President Thein Sein said at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Bali that the government's troops could annihilate the KIO/KIA within a day.
Recently, the KIA lost its camps controlled by KIA Battalion 27 in Man Si Township, Bahmo. According to Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military observer based on the China-Burma border, the KIA lost the camps because of the continuous artillery firing by the Burmese army.
"It seems that the government is using both means: one is to keep pressuring the KIA by military offensives and the other is at the discussion table," Aung Kyaw Zaw told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. "In this situation it is more important to establish a political solution than a ceasefire. It is a civil war. It has already made thousands of locals internally displaced persons (IDPs)."
Aung Kyaw Zaw also said that the government troops are using more than 100 infantry battalions and Divisions 88, 99 and 44, which are much bigger than the local battalions.
The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an independent organization that uses the integrity of medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations against individuals, issued a report titled "Under Siege in Kachin State, Burma," about human rights violations in Kachin State. The report stated that in September, PHR conducted an investigation in Burma's Kachin State in response to reports of grave human rights violations in the region. PHR found that between June and September 2011, the Burmese army looted food from civilians, fired indiscriminately into villages, threatened villages with attacks, and used civilians as porters and human minesweepers.
The report said, "IDP camps are overcrowded and the numbers of latrines and water supply points are insufficient to ensure that residents human rights to clean food and water are met. Camp medical staff reported insufficient supplies of medicine for infants."
The PHR also called for an immediate stop to all human rights violations and violations of the law of armed conflict, for the provision of aid to IDPs in all parts of Kachin state and for unimpeded access for the UN, INGOs and local NGOs to deliver food and medical assistance to IDPs in Kachin State.
According to the data of Wunpawng Ning Htoi, which means "Lights for the Kachin People," 30,000 to 40,000 locals have fled their homes because of fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA.
Myanmar Gov't Officials Meet with Kachin Rebels
Associated Press. Dec. 1, 2011
Deadly Clashes Between Govt. and KIA Mars Peace Talks
The Irrawaddy. Dec. 6, 2011
Deadly clashes between an ethnic Kachin militia and Burmese government troops have continued despite well publicized peace talks between the two sides in the run-up to the historic visit to Burma of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week.
The latest fighting in Momauk Township of Kachin State over the past few days confirmed the virtual failure of peace talks held in China between Burmese government ministers and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the 10,000-strong Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Reports from the frontline indicate that there have been casualties on both sides, but the exact numbers remain unknown at the present time. The clashes, which were also reported in northeastern Shan State where the KIA has bases, broke out despite the Nov. 29 negotiations being highlighted in state-run newspapers to draw international attention to government efforts to resolve long-standing ethnic issues while Clinton was in the country.
A KIO official said that the failure of talks was because Burmese government ministers did not accept that fighting between the two sides is a political issue. This is despite the KIO calling for a political dialogue over their demands for autonomy in Kachin State -- the same demand made since 1961.
"Government minister Aung Min said that this is an 'arms issue,' as opposed to a political one which our leader emphasized in the meeting. So they couldn't agree about it," said the official. "During the peace talks and afterwards, the government massively reinforced its troops in Kachin State."
A US state department official told reporters in Washington on Friday that the White House intends to support the Friends of Burma group, "that would provide and bring together substantial resources to the table to support autonomy and the like" if Burma makes a serious effort to achieve national dialogue aiming for autonomy for ethnic minorities in the country.
Recent hostilities in Kachin State have displaced tens of thousands of people along the China-Burma border, and the Burmese government has denied the UN and international aid groups access to these areas.
In an interview with The Irrawaddy, UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana said that access to conflict zones will be one of his top priorities during his forthcoming visit to Burma in February. He also urged the government to initiate a peace process under the premises of civilian and democratic values.
Over the weekend, democracy activists and civil society groups from Rangoon and Mandalay went to provide aid to refugee camps in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina and also Waimaw. Myat Thu, a 88 Generation Students leader who was visiting the camp said that refugees are in great need of support and have no hope of returning to their homes because of the fighting.
"They all look shabby and are mainly supported by Christian churches in the town," he said. "There are also refugee camps which we cannot go to since they are not under government control."
During Clinton's visit, the government signed a formal ceasefire agreement with the powerful rebel group the Shan State Army-South. The agreement contains promises of economic development for local people in Shan State, but not regarding the issue of autonomy or political dialogue which the Kachins are demanding.
Burmese Activists Organize Peace Committee
Mizzima. Dec. 6, 2011
A peace committee will meet in Rangoon on Saturday to seek solutions to armed clashes in ethnic areas, particularly Kachin State. The committee chairman, Bauk Ja, said the committee has invited experts and scholars to exchange views and search for solutions.
She said about 70 people have been invited including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, NGO members, economists, ethnic leaders, religious leaders, peace activists, artists and writers.
After the Rangoon meeting, follow-up meetings will be held in Kachin State, she said. Such a meeting is urgently needed, she said, because the government has reinforced troops in Kachin State and because of the ongoing human rights violations. "First, we will seek advice and suggestions from the scholars. Then we will take them to locations where refugees live," Bauk Ja said.
Referring to the halt in construction of the Myitsone Dam project, she said that people's efforts to find peace could also have an impact on government policy, if more people know of the situation in Karen State.
The peace committee was formed on November 11 with members representing Kachin, Chin, Mon, Arakan, Karen, Karenni and Shan ethnic political parties
Bauk Ja chairs the committee. The second chairwoman is Kam Khant Dame and the secretary is Shein Tun. There are 11 committee members.
On November 15, the committee, called the Peace Poneyeik Committee, urged the government to stop reinforcing troops in Kachin State, and to allow NGOs and civil organizations to enter the area and provide aid to the war refugees.
Because of the fighting that began in June between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), there are more than 32,000 war refugees in the area, according to figures compiled by the KIO.
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