After 55 days of fighting "the situation for the population is tragic" in Kachin

Government forces are advancing against the rebel Kachin Independence Army. For a Catholic activist, "bombardments and shelling from both sides" are occurring every day. More than 120,000 people are still displaced. For the past week, people have been calling for a ceasefire. Despite Aung San Su Kyi’s peace conference that started in late August, violence continues in northern Myanmar.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) – The situation in Kachin state "is tragic. Today we have reached the 55th day of fighting since government troops attacked one of the bases of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) near the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), a place called Gi Don, on the top of the Nkrem mountains," said Khon Ja Labang, a Catholic activist.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the member of the Kachin Peace Network sounded the alarm about the situation in the northern state of Myanmar (on the border with China), endangered by renewed fighting.

For several days, government forces (Tatmadaw) have been moving into Kachin territory, using air and ground attacks against positions held by Kachin forces, causing an unknown number of deaths.

Even today, there were repeated attacks. "At about 12 (local time), Gi Don saw bombardments and shelling from both sides," Khon said.

The Kachin are one of 135 ethnic groups, who have always struggled to coexist peacefully, especially with the central government, which is dominated by ethnic Burmese.

The latest fighting flared up in June 2011 after 17 years of relative calm with scores of civilian deaths and at least 200,000 people displaced as a result of fighting between government forces and the Kachin.

“There are still more than 120,000 refugees,” the activist said. “Starting last week, several demonstrations against the war have occurred in Myitkyina, Yangon, Myitkyina (twice), Tanai, Hpakant, and also in Chiang Mai (Thailand)."

The international community also appealed for peace. A European Union delegation in Yangon called for "the immediate cessation of hostilities" because “The escalation in fighting has resulted in casualties and the internal displacement of many civilians. At the same time, humanitarian access to conflict areas has been severely curtailed”.

The Catholic Church, said Khon Ja, "is doing a lot to help people through different humanitarian projects. Unfortunately, the funds are dwindling."

According to some analysts, attacks by government forces are designed to put pressure on the KIA to sign a ceasefire agreement reached last year between the government and some rebel groups.

From a Kachin perspective, the Burmese army “is an occupying army in ethnic homelands,” a local activist and journalist wrote.

Attacking a KIA post far from the main motorway "is an outright violation of the agreement between the Kio and the Burmese government in May2013," the activist added.

Whilst the 21st Century Panglong conference led by State Councillor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is progressing, the military “is carrying out its own mission by transporting more troops and ammunition to the Kachin region, building concrete bunkers, and setting up more military bases”.