04/15/2014, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Kachin, Burmese Army raids rebel stronghold: thousands of refugees and humanitarian crisis

by Francis Khoo Thwe

A group of local NGOs , including Christian and Catholic organizations, warn of a crisis in the State in northern Myanmar. In the last few days - in conjunction with the census - the fighting has intensified, at least 3 thousand people take flight. Part of the displaced have found refuge across the border in China. Appeals for a ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks.

Yangon ( AsiaNews) - Fighting has resumed in Kachin State, northern Burma bordering China, between the Burmese army and ethnic rebel militia Kachin Independence Army ( Kia) . The new wave of violence flared up April 10 in conjunction with the launching of the Naypyidaw census and has already caused more than 3 thousand new refugees. The alarm is being raised by a group of local NGOs, including Christian organizations, who appeal to the international community to intervene to stop the fighting. Tensions have also erupted into guerrilla warfare in the northern part of the neighboring Shan State . Local Catholic sources tell AsiaNews that the fighting has created a situation of "chaos" along the Sino-Burmese border , which is struggling to stabilize.

In recent weeks, the central government has sent a large number of soldiers to the area under the pretext of ensuring the proper conduct of the census; However , the statistical survey - also funded by the United Nations - was boycotted by the political wing of the Kachin rebels (Kio, or the Kachin Independence Organization) , because in addition to excluding the Rohingya Muslim minority, it is in fact not representative of the entire Kachin population, predominantly Christian.

The clashes in recent days have caused the flight of 800 inhabitants from the village of Yang Lagat, controlled by the Kio rebels; of these, at least 200 have fled across the border to China, where the situation is described as "chaotic". 2 thousand people, a mix of ethnic Kachin, Shan and Palaung have fled to China in the last 72 hours to escape raids by the Burmese army. So far, the authorities in Beijing have no placed special restrictions on crossing the border, but monitoring remains tight and it is not known whether a residence permit will be granted for refugees or for how long.

In a climate of violence and terror, a group of NGOs working in Kachin State - including Karuna, Caritas Burma, the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) , the Kachin Women's Association and Bridge - have issued a statement calling for "an immediate cessation of hostilities". This is a very remote possibility, however, given that the military continues to advance and shows no sign of retreating. The activists also want the "full respect" for international law and human rights, guarantees of "protection" for the displaced and, in particular, children who are victims of "terrible trauma." Finally, they address an appeal to China to respect the principle of "non-return" of refugees and , most recently, asking all the national and international humanitarian organizations to provide "urgent" basic care and basic necessities needed for the survival of the victims of the conflict.

Myanmar is home to over 135 ethnic groups, and has always struggled to promote a  peaceful coexistence among them.  In the past the miltitary junta has preferred and iron first to tame the  most recalcitrant, including the Kachin in the north. After 17 years of relative peace, in 2011 renewed conflict between government troops and Kia rebel militias broke out and so far has caused dozens of civilian deaths and at least 120 thousand displaced people, the vast majority civilians. The leaders of the independence movement and representatives of the central government in Naypyidaw - a semi-civil government led by President Thein Sein - made numerous attempts to broker peace, without ever obtaining any tangible or lasting results .

 

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