07/13/2011, 00.00
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War, violence and refugees as the Kachin face Myanmar’s junta

A Kachin expert tells AsiaNews about the uncertainty that grips an entire people, exhausted by a long civil war. Meanwhile, the international community shows little interest in the matter.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Kachin live in uncertainty because “fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese government troops continue everyday in Kachin State and northern Shan State,” said Zau Raw, coordinator for Kachin Refugee Committee (KRC) in New Delhi (India). He spoke to AsiaNews about the difficult situation facing the Kachin people at a time when the international community shows little interest in their plight.

“Burmese troops based in Pa Jau Na Hpaw, the former headquarters of the KIA, used heavy weaponry against a strategic KIA army camp in Padang Kawng on Monday. Some shells hit the Chinese side” of the border, he said. “Early in the morning of July 11, at Bum Sen post, a battle between KIA’s battalion 15 and Burmese troops lasted until midday.”

Recently, clashes between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese government troops took place on 2 and 3 July in different parts of Kachin State, this “despite efforts by both sides to negotiate a ceasefire on June 17 and 30 during meetings between KIA and Burmese government representatives.” Every day, people died on both sides.

“There are more than 15,000 refugees on the border with China. Most of them have found refuge in KIA headquarters in Laiza township where the KIA opened six refugee camps,” Zau Raw said. These camps rely on aid from the KIA and London-based Health Unlimited, but shortages have appeared.

“International aid is needed,” he warned, because the Burmese government has refused to help local NGOs reach the war zone with aid.

“Most Kachin are Christian,” he noted, “but the Churches have a hard time bringing aid to refugee camps. Burmese authorities have tried to discredit the refugees claiming they are KIA supporters or fighters; however, they are just destitute people fleeing war. Some have found a hiding place in local Buddhist monasteries or in churches.”

Zau Raw has been in India since 2006. he was born in Manje, near the city of Bhamo in Kachin State, where fighting is raging. He remembers many of the acts of violence perpetrated by Burmese soldiers against civilians “before the 1994 ceasefire between the KIA and the Burmese military.”

“Whenever Burmese soldiers showed up, all adult males would run into the jungle to avoid being conscripted as porters,” he said.

The Burmese military often use porters as human shields against the KIA. They are also denied medical care and adequate food. Many have died from malaria or malnutrition. Still, “A few have been able to escape and come home.”

“Now the civil war has come close to my home town. I have seen repeated acts of violence against Kachin civilians. I too was subjected to forced labour,” he explained.

“The entire Kachin population is the victim of uncertainty in the war zone. Anyone can be arrested or jailed without evidence for allegedly supporting the KIA”. (NC)
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