UCA News


Myanmar Christian leaders meet Suu Kyi in war-torn state

State counselor pushes govt peace efforts, churchmen seek help for those displaced by Kachin conflict

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Myanmar Christian leaders meet Suu Kyi in war-torn state

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with Catholic and Baptist church officials in Kachin State on March 28. (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP)

Share this article :
Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi made a rare visit to conflict-stricken Kachin State where she met civil society groups and Christian leaders to promote her national peace initiatives.

Catholic and Baptist church officials were among the civil society groups and community leaders who attended a two and half hour-long meeting with Suu Kyi in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital on March 28.

During the meeting, Suu Kyi stressed the importance of ethnic groups joining the ongoing 21st Century Panglong peace conference, which is meant to occur every six months. The next one is to be held in May.

According to those at the meeting, the 71-year-old Nobel laureate emphasized the significance of all armed ethnic groups signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) which will allow them to join the talks.

Leaders from both the Catholic and Baptist churches agreed that Suu Kyi's visit would help build trust between the government and armed ethnic groups such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Myanmar.

Manam Tu Ja, a Catholic and chairman of the Kachin State Democracy Party in Kachin State, told ucanews.com that Suu Kyi's visit was aimed at trying to ensure that the peace conference is all-inclusive.

"She gave a message to the KIA to sign the NCA so they could attend the next conference," said Tu Ja.

In 2011, conflict resumed between the KIA and the military ending a 17-year ceasefire agreement. Since then more than 100,000 civilians have been displaced and remain in camps in Kachin and northern Shan states.

Khin Zaw Win, a Yangon-based political analyst, said Suu Kyi's visit to Kachin was about pushing for the peace that her government promised.

During the meeting, Rev. Hkalam Samson, general secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention, said among the issues he raised with Suu Kyi were those focused on the internally displaced people (IDP) camps and restrictions on humanitarian aid. International food deliveries to around 42,000 IDPs have been blocked for months in both Kachin and Shan states.

Steven Tsa Ji, general secretary of the Kachin Development Networking Group, a civil society organization in Kachin State, says Suu Kyi needs to appreciate the reality for those people currently living in the camps.

During her visit to Kachin State, Suu Kyi also visited two IDP camps in Waimaw township, near Myitkyina where more than 2,500 people have lived since renewed fighting erupted in 2011.

On March 30, five ethnic armed groups — the Karenni National Progressive Party, New Mon State Party, the Arakan National Council, Lahu Democratic Union and the Wa National Organization of the ethnic alliance of the United Nationalities Federal Council — said they will sign the NCA, according to the state counselor's office.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."