Latest Stories: Displaced Kachins in Burma
Displaced Kachins in Northern Burma
It seems that Burma (Myanmar) has been dramatically changing toward democracy, bringing huge attention of the international community on it, since the new president Thein Sein took the office in April in 2011. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country in December to create the full diplomatic ties. In April this year, it held its first parliamentary elections in more than 20 years. Aung San Suu Kyi, so long house-arrested iconic democracy leader, was elected to parliament, and then the Obama administration announced it would lift sanctions on Burma, though not so soon for all of them.
Atrocity is, however, still continuing in Burma, especially in its Northern states. Since June 2011, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of several militias aligned with Burma's ethnic minority groups, and the Burmese government’s troops have restarted the civil war, breaking the 17 year old ceasefire. 7,5000 people or so have been displaced from their home. Most of them into the KIA’s controlled areas, but a certain number of refugees have crossed the border into Yunnan province in China.
According to the rights groups, the Burmese Army, in many cases, attacks civilians in the front lines or nearby, killing, raping, torturing, and burning their houses. Kachin refugees I met in the camps told me so, too. Plus, it is said the Burmese government intentionally spreads drug, such as opium and heroin, onto young Kachins in the now controlled areas: for an example; onto the university students in Myitkyina, the supposed capital of the Kachin State in Northern Burma.
Kachins face the plight in the refugee, or IDP, camps, too. Their rationed food is almost rice and potato: it means the nutrition is very bad. To get more nutritious substances, they often go to the nearby mountains to look for any eatable stuff, such as fruits, bamboo sprout, etc. Shelter, clean water, sanitation and basic health care are also very lacking. Plus, most of the children have no access to school. In these situations, Kachins, especially the young, if not so often, might be trapped in victims of human trafficking or waging drug trafficking. Both types of trafficking are rather rampant in Northern Burma and the nearby countries. Indeed, there are anti such campaigning posters in the camps, and during my visit, two girls disappeared in a refugee camp in Laiza, a border town, after they were told/ deceived they could easily find nice jobs in China.
The refugees in China also suffer the sever ordeal. It is not only the camps’ difficult and dire conditions, but also that adults are vulnerable to abuses by local employers and have been subject to arbitrary drug testing and prolonged and abusive detention by the local Chinese authorities, according to Human Rights Watch. Also, the rights organization says, “ to its credit, the government of China has allowed most of the refugees to stay in Yunnan; some, however, have been forced back to the conflict zone or denied entry into China at the border.”
The Burmese government has extremely limited the international humanitarian aid to Kachin refugees in Northern Burma, insisting it is the security reason. The virtual only way is secretly accessing from China. But the country is Burma’s largest foreign direct investor now: it means it is very difficult and risky for aid workers, even those of international bodies, such as United Nations.
Both sides have attempted to reset the ceasefire more than several times, but all have just failed. The rebel’s aim is to secure greater autonomy for their state, where the Burmese government planed to build the Myitsone Dam and eventually Kachin villages would be submerged. Moreover, Kachin state contains full of natural resources --- gold, rare earth, Jade, and timber. Indeed, those would be the real root cause of war.
Current Burmese President Thein Sein is trying to persuade the outside world that Burma's nominally civilian government is very different from those who made up the notoriously brutal military junta of the past. However, the old military guards are still the real government actors, and those military chiefs have for a long time enjoyed the wealth of those border areas. In addition, other outside power-states also show their interest for those resources, or would like to disturb a rival country from obtaining them. Meanwhile, Kachins, especially the young, become nationalistic more and more and likely to join ranks of KIA more than ever.