Kachin activists call for an end to the war and to illegal arrests
The Joint Strategy Team (JST), which has provided humanitarian assistance in Kachin state since 2011, calls for an end to the fighting between government and rebel forces. The number of casualties is unknown but thousands of displaced people have sought refuge in China. People are in a dire situation but the military have blocked humanitarian aid.
Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) – The Joint Strategy Team (JST), a coordinating body established by various Myanmar humanitarian organisations providing assistance in Kachin since 2011, has issued an appeal to the Myanmar government and military to release immediately all civilians caught in the fighting in Kachin State, cease all military activities in accordance with international humanitarian law, find a peaceful solution to the conflict, and take care of people displaced by the war.
The Kachin are one Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups. They have always struggled to coexist peacefully with the central government and its ethnic Burmese majority.
The latest fighting broke out in June 2011 after 17 years of relative calm with scores of civilian deaths and at least 120,000 people displaced, divided in 167 refugee camps, as a result of fighting between government forces (Tatmadaw) and the Kachin.
For several weeks, the military has intensified its push into Kachin territory. Myanmar troops have attacked Kachin forces by air and land, causing an unknown number of casualties. Card Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon, has repeatedly appealed to the country to seek peace.
According to the JST, “despite the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement process and the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, the Tatmadaw is continuing and expanding its military offensives and violations of human rights across Kachin and Northern Shan States.”
For the JST, "despite the national draft armistice [. . .], the Tatmadaw continues to expand the military offensive and the human rights violations in Kachin State and northern Shan.
“Continuous fighting, the use of airstrikes and heavy artillery have increased civilian casualties and intensified fear and anxiety for IDPs.”
Following the latest clashes, another 20,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge along the border and in China.
“Most of the current conflict affected areas are not accessible yet,” the JST notes. “Villagers in remote area are trapped between conflict zone and are not able to leave the area yet. “
The military “regularly hinders the transportation and distribution of food assistance in many areas. These actions are contributing to acute food shortages for IDPs in KIO-controlled areas”. The KIO is the Kachin Independence Organisation.
“Education remains woefully inadequate”, and Kachin youth face “increasing trauma”. Meanwhile, “psychosocial support is increasingly urgent, but largely non-existent.”
“Despite these urgent needs, donors and international Governments are shifting funding towards development and economic investments, leaving the humanitarian situation ever more precarious.”
The illegal arrests of civilians is worrying the JST. “During the fighting that took place in Mungkoe area on 20th November, Myanmar Government Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) arrested about 70 civilians, who were taking part in a wedding ceremony at Hpau Jung Pa village; 12 relatives from China were also included among those arrested. These 12 relatives from China were released on the following day.”
“The rest have been detained and none of them has been released yet up to now. Such an arbitrary detention of the civilians is a clear sign of breaching the Geneva Convention.”