Kachin, 405 villages destroyed and 150 thousand displaced in seven years of conflict

Since 9 June 2011, there have been 3,800 armed clashes between the Burmese army and the rebels of the Christian minority. 311 churches, 24 Buddhist monasteries, 34 childcare centers, 122 schools, 264 clinics damaged or destroyed.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - The civil war in the northern state of Kachin has entered its seventh year. On June 9, 2011, the troops of the Tatmadaw [the powerful Burmese army], led a military offensive against the rebels of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) near a Chinese hydroelectric plant in Momauk. The clashes triggered the resumption of the age-old conflict, putting an end to a 17-year cease-fire between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Kia's political arm. It is the political organization that reflects the autonomous aspirations of the Kachin ethnic minority, a Christian component made up of Catholics for 40% and Baptists for 60%.

According to official data of the KIO and various local community organizations, there have been over 3,800 armed clashes between the two sides since June 2011. The fighting between Kia and the Burmese army continued during the government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) ) of the democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, engaged in a difficult peace process, in the ethnic state and throughout the country. In two and a half years since the NLD’s electoral victory, there have been more than 1,300 clashes. The government is the subject of harsh criticism from peace activists, denouncing the silence of the institutions on war and human rights violations (extrajudicial killings, incarcerations and rape) in Kachin.

Caritas Myanmar (Karuna Mission Social Solidarity - KMSS) reports that there are about 150 thousand residents displaced since the civil war resumed. Among these, 130 thousand people live in the 165 internally displaced IDP camps located in Kachin and in the north of the neighboring ethnic state, Shan; 20 thousand are hosted in by the host community. Since the resumption of the conflict, 405 villages have been damaged or destroyed. Added to these are 311 churches, 24 Buddhist monasteries, 34 childcare centers, 122 schools, and 264 outpatient clinics. In 2018 alone, 50 villages were abandoned and residents were forced to find refuge in refugee camps, with host families or relatives' homes. There are over 6 thousand new IDPs. In the exodus, many civilians have been killed or injured by landmines, which are scattered across large areas of the territory. 13 people died this year and 39 suffered serious injuries.

Humanitarian assistance for IDPs has decreased over the course of the year and many are suffering the consequences of the cuts. As the hopes for a peaceful resolution for the Kachin state fade, UN agencies, NGOs and religious-inspired organizations such as Caritas find it difficult to raise funds to support them. The dilapidation of shelters, the harsh climate and extreme weather conditions affect the grueling life in the camps. The morale and hopes of children, women, young people and the elderly are eroded by continuous armed clashes and decreased aid.

Three days ago, the Kachin Youth Movement and other civil society organizations organized a prayer service in the state capital Myitkyina, for peace. The Catholic Church and other religious leaders officiated the peaceful event (photo). The Myanmar Police Forces intimidated the participants throughout its duration. In the afternoon, the authorities informed some of the organizers that they would be questioned, as the demonstration had lasted longer than expected. They also responded to the performances organized by the young participants. Today, the local court imposed a fine on them. (L.J.G.)