29 September 2016
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    » 01/16/2015, 00.00

    MYANMAR

    Kachin: thousands of civilians flee renewed fighting between army and rebels



    At least 2,000 people took refuge in churches and monasteries. After a local politician was abducted, the military launched an attack even though he was freed within 24 hours. Witnesses said the military did not wait for his release, but launched a deliberate attack. Peace talks are still at a standstill.

    Yangon (AsiaNews) - More than 2,000 villagers in Kachin State, northern Myanmar, on the border with China, have fled their homes because of renewed fighting between the Burmese army and the rebels of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

    Under mortar fire, residents fled their villages early yesterday morning. Many found refuge in churches and monasteries in the town of Hpakant.

    The fighting was sparked by the abduction on Wednesday of a local politician by rebel forces. Although he was released yesterday, the Burmese military used the incident to launch a new attack again the KIA. In doing so, hapless civilians were caught in the crossfire.

    Kachin sources claim that they warned the military of the imminent release of Kachin State Transport Minister Kamann Du Naw, but "they didn't wait for his release and attacked us".

    Nothing is known of the three police officers who accompanied the minister at the time of the kidnapping.

    Although no one has been reported killed or wounded so far, thousands of people had to seek shelter in churches and monasteries.

    Despite ongoing attempts at peace talks, "fighting continues on the ground," a witness said.

    Myanmar has more than 135 ethnic groups, who have always struggled to live in peace, in particular with the majority Burmese-dominated central government.

    In the past, the military junta used an iron fist against the most rebellious minorities, including the Kachin, whose state is located on the border with China.

    After 17 years of relative calm, fighting broke out again in Kachin State in June 2011.

    Since then, dozens of civilians have been killed and at least 200,000 people have been displaced.

    Last August, local bishops made a plea for peace, calling for a lasting solution to the conflict.

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    See also

    31/05/2013 MYANMAR
    Kachin Catholics cautiously optimistic over rebel-government agreement
    Yesterday the two sides signed seven-point deal in Mitkyina, the first step towards a permanent ceasefire. For AsiaNews sources, the presence of representatives of other minorities and a UN envoy was an "important" factor for clinching the deal. Myanmar's government and military have come to realise they cannot win militarily and are now open to real talks.

    09/09/2015 MYANMAR
    As the authorities talk peace with ethnic groups, the Church helps displaced people
    Myanmar’s president met a delegation of ethnic leaders for talks, hoping to see peace by the November elections. Among Kachin and Shan refugees, the situation is increasingly critical. Food supplies are at risk, and thousands of children and youth might not be able to go to school. The local Caritas and Church are in the forefront of relief efforts.

    17/11/2015 MYANMAR
    Old parliament on its way out, too slowly for Aung San Suu Kyi
    Myanmar’s parliament met yesterday in Naypyidaw for the first time since last week’s election. Parliamentary speaker reminds his fellow lawmakers that they are on the way out, and that they should work for the people. Slow process of transition irks the new majority leader. Meanwhile, fighting continues in Kachin and Shan states.

    09/06/2015 MYANMAR
    For Catholic activist, the plight of Kachin displaced by the military’s violence is getting worse
    Khon Ja Labang spoke to AsiaNews about the situation four years after fighting broke out again in Kachin State. The military is looking constantly for pretexts to attack. Refugees have to survive on less than 40 cents a day. Only 16 per cent of their humanitarian needs are met. Meanwhile, she is raising funds in Yangon for displaced people.

    14/01/2013 MYANMAR
    Burmese forces attack Kachin stronghold, killing three civilians and wounding six more
    For the first time, the military struck "the heart of Laiza," killing a 15-year-old boy. Two girls, 2 and 8, are among the wounded. As tens of thousands of people are displaced, the humanitarian crisis is getting worse. Sources told AsiaNews that the military is moving on four fronts, pounding enemy targets every day from the air.



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