08/19/2014, 00.00
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Kachin Bishops urge "sustainable" solution to conflict, "peace is possible" in Myanmar

by Francis Khoo Thwe
The bishops of Banmaw, Myitkyina and Lashio revived the project of a "true federalism" that respects "ethnic groups, cultures and resources." They denounce human trafficking and the drug problem that has affected young people. Glimmers of a national ceasefire talks between the government and ethnic militias.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - "Peace is possible in this country" and that's why the Burmese government, army, ethnic minorities and rebel groups, particularly in Kachin State home to a bloody three year war, are called upon to find a "lasting solution to the conflict", by the bishops of the dioceses of Banmaw, Myitkyina and Lashio.

In a joint statement issued in agreement with representatives of the Kachin, Shan and displaced due to the war and sent to AsiaNews, Msgr. Raymond Sumlut Gam, Msgr. Francis Daw Tang and Msgr. Philip Zahawng call once more for the project of a "true federalism" for Myanmar, that respects the "ethnicity, culture and resources" of individual territories.

Myanmar is made ​​up of over 135 ethnic groups, who have always struggled to live in harmony, in particular with the central government and the majority Burmese. 

In the past, the military junta has used brute force to tame the most recalcitrant, including the Kachin in the homonymous region in the north, along the border with China.

After 17 years of relative calm, clashes were renewed in June 2011, causing dozens of civilian deaths and at least 200 thousand displaced people, as confirmed by the bishops in their appeal.

The Kachin prelates recall that they are first hand witnesses of the sufferings "of our people," of having seen "hundreds of innocent people killed and buried in mass graves", thousands of refugees "crammed into inhuman shelters". 

They speak of "brutal conflict," which has inflicted heavy "side effects" on the integrity of the territory and its people. Among these, "human trafficking", which has reduced women into slavery and "trapped" hundreds of young people into drug addiction.

It is a "deliberate attempt" to "destroy the youth of our land," as well as "one of indiscriminate dispossession" to exploit the natural resources belonging to the people. The landed issue as well as forced evictions and the relocation of entire villages, "may determine the future of peace" in the region.

In addition, both sides - Burmese army and rebel groups of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) - have a duty to "protect the basic rights of civilians" and proceed in "demining the territory", so people are free to return to their land of origin.

"The Church prays for a durable peace - conclude the three prelates in their appeal -and assures all that it will work with all sections of Myanmar society to achieve that much desired goal".

Meanwhile, the possibility of a national cease-fire is gaining ground after three days of talks last weekend in Yangon, between representatives of the government in Naypyidaw and the ethnic minority leaders in Myanmar. 

It was the fifth official meeting between the two delegations and there are glimmers of hope for an end to over 60 years of conflict and division.

There are still unresolved issues around forced recruitment into the ranks of the army, but there have been significant steps forward for the accommodation of refugees, provision of troops and the possibility of a joint peace force.



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