Currently there are fierce battles raging throughout the Kachin State between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese government. (MaristFathers.org.au/Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office)
Relations between the Burmese military and the Kachins have been deteriorating for years and have now reached a humanitarian crisis.
The category Kachin comprises of six ethnic sub-groups or principal lineages (Jinghpaw, Lawngwaw, Lashi, Zaiwa, Rawang, Lisu).
These six groups are deemed to share similar traditions, customs, dialects and practices living mainly in northern Burma, as well as parts of China and India.
Under British rule from 1824 until 1948, many Kachin converted from traditional spirit worship animism to Christianity.
In modern Burma, the majority of Kachins are Christians, predominantly Baptists, followed by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations.
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) was formed in 1961 shortly after Burma’s first Prime Minister U Nu decreed Buddhism as the state religion of Burma, against the will of the Ethnic Minorities.
The KIA also formed in response to the unfulfilled promises of autonomy of an independent Kachin State outlined in the Panglong Agreement 1947.
Independence Organization (KIO, the political arm of the KIA) policy goal is for autonomy within a federal union of Burma, along with self-determination of rule and administration of land and resources.
In 1994 a “Cease-Fire” agreement between the KIA and the Burmese Army was signed.
On the 9th June 2011, open conflict erupted for the second time after the 17-year ceasefire.
The clashes began when the Burmese government concluded an agreement with China for the construction of a dam that will power a hydroelectric plant in Kachin territory.
The project will cause the forced displacement without adequate compensation and flooding of villages where the Kachin people live.
Local people refused to move provoking violent repression from of the Burmese Army.
For those living outside of Kachin State, it is difficult to understand the harsh reality the people are facing. In undemocratic Burma, only the few military commanders with executive power control the whole country.
They have seriously oppressed media freedom and social and human rights activities, especially in Kachin State.
The Burmese military regime’s ethnic cleansing mentality fuels every Burmese soldier to act with violence, especially towards the strong-willed Kachin ethnic group. This is why the Kachin were forced to leave their homeland.
Violence in Kachin State: The suffering and unwavering determination of the Kachin
(MaristFathers.org.au/Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office)
Image from the report on the maristfathers.org.au website