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Kachin, the Silent War

 

 

The rugged and remote mountains of Northern Burma’s Kachin State have been ravaged by an attrition war between the Tatmadaw (the Burmese Army) and the Kachin Indepence Army (KIA) since a ceasefire signed in 1994 by both sides unravelled in June 2011, leaving tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltered in camps along the Chinese border, and ravaging a land rich in natural resources.

 

The Kachin is one of the many groups that make the complex ethnic tapestry of the Southeast Asian country. They speak a different language than the Bamar-majority and are mostly Christian, while the Bamar are Buddhist. Fiercely independent and famous for their fighting skills for centuries, the Kachin were never under the direct rule of the Burmese kings in pre-colonial times, thus preserving their culture and autonomy for centuries.

 

The KIA was founded in 1961, thirteen years after Burmese independence from the British Empire, as a response to the attempts by the central government to undermine their political autonomy. At first, the goal of the KIA was full independence, but that objective was downgraded to the demand of autonomy within a Federal State in the mid-Seventies.

 

The resumption of hostilities in 2011 took place against the backdrop of an uncertain process of transition in Burma from military dictatorship to what the regime termed a “discipline-flourishing democracy” tightly controlled by the same generals who have held power for decades. So far, the attempts to sign a ceasefire between both sides have proved elusive, as the distrust of the Kachin towards the government runs deep after decades of war and human rights abuses, and the government refuses to yield to the political demands by the Kachin leaders for greater autonomy in their region.

 

 

Text by Carlos Sardiña


Place : Kachin State, Burma.
   
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