Saturday, 06 August 2011 15:15 Banyar Kong Janoi
Download Despite ceasefire talks being attempted between the Kachin Independence army and the Burmese government, fierce fighting in frontline areas is still taking place.
As with other armed ethnic groups, the Kachin have abandoned their previous claim for independence from Burma.
Instead want they say they are fighting for is a certain degree of autonomy over their own affairs which would guarantee respect for their own rights and culture.
Banyar Kong Janoi reports from Kachin Independent Army headquarters in Laiza.
The Kachin Independent Army’s headquarters in Laiza is a hive of activity for senior officials to fight against Burmese army.
A big map is hanging on the wall with a line of remark where the current fighting is.
Update military reports hang to senior officials.
The Burmese soldiers fire their rockets to Laiza.
Using high-tech equipment, such as Google earth software, an officer tracks where Burmese soldiers fire their rockets. It is about 9,000 meters far from Laiza.
Thirty years old Htoi Bu has joined Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of KIA, after her post-graduated in linguistic five years ago as a campaigner.
She is campaigning among young people about their struggle.
Despite ceasefire talks between the government and the KIA, she said this war will not end soon.
“I think this civil war will be widespread around the country; not only in border of Kachin State, but also other cities. The ethnic armed groups have an agreement, if we cannot solve the problem with the Burmese government politically, we have to solve militarily. That’s why; all ethnic groups will fight for their rights until they can achieve what they want.”
Some 17,000 people have been displaced by the fighting that began in early June.
But Htoi Bu says her people are use to suffering.
“We are fighting federalism so we can be governed by our own people. The way junta governs us today is threaten our culture, language, and religion so this fighting is meaningful for us. Of course, our people are suffering because of this war but we have been facing much more trouble under Burmese military government. So we believe this war is worth the sacrifice.”
La Nan is the joint-secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization.
He said if the Burmese government is genuine about a ceasefire, they should make a nationwide ceasefire with all ethnic armed groups.
“If we want to stop this civil war, it is impossible to make a deal only one group. Now, the government has been fighting against with Shan, Kachin, Karen, and Mon. So first they should stop fighting against those groups and then start talking about the ceasefire plan. If they even do not stop fighting against those groups, how we can believe this ceasefire is genuine? We know, we cannot find a solution by military means. At the end of the day, we have to talk and negotiate to find a solution.”
The fighting in June marked the end of 17 years ceasefire agreement.
The agreement defined a framework for future business deals and outlined a portion of the Kachin State that would fall under the KIO's control.
However, the document was never made public, which made the assessment of its implementation difficult.
La Nan said signing that agreement back in 1994 was a mistake.
“At that time, only two parties: KIO and junta witnessed the ceasefire agreement. No one knew what the agreement was about. Besides, we did not have a third a party to monitor the agreement. As a result, the government as they were the biggest force was taking advantage of the deal and they did whatever they want.”
La Nan says they do not want to make the same mistake again.
“If we have to sign ceasefire again, we need to have a clear timeline on what both parties will do for the country’s political development. Besides, we need a third party to monitor the agreement for who is taking advantage of it. We are ready to sign a ceasefire agreement if it is solid and has some kind of guarantee. We don’t want only talk without solid evidence. We have experienced when Burmese military said they would stop fighting but later they fought us again.”
He says they would accept China as the third party observer.
Laiza is crossed by a stream marking the Chinese border and About 300,000 Kachin also live in neighboring China.
“China should not think, this matter is internal problem. This problem is not internal problem, when the fighting broke out, it affected Chinese investment inside Burma plus more refugees will flee to China so it affected them directly. So they should involve solving the problem.”
La Nan says recent ceasefire talks between KIO and Burmese government official in Laijayang did not reach a solution.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has sent a letter to government and ethnic armed groups calling for a political solution to be found instead of trying to solve disputes with guns.
Her effort was welcomed by the ethnic groups.
La Rip, coordinator of a refugee relief committee for the Kachin, said both sides should not proud of their fighting.
“Fighting between them in military form, using military equipments also hurt civilian population and also daily activities of normal people. That’s why; there should be a space for dialogue negotiation and peace talk to find lasting solution. It is not no matter who win [this war], they should not be, both sides KIA and military government, should not be proud of claiming a victory one another. There won’t be that kind of victory against each other, I think. The finding solution is a victory for all: for KIA, Burmese government and civilian population.”