Thousands Flee Fighting in Myanmar's Kachin State

2013-11-18
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myanmar-kachin-refugee-may-2012.jpg
A mother feeds her child at a refugee camp in Kachin state, May 25, 2012.
AFP

An outbreak of fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in Myanmar’s Kachin state over the weekend has forced thousands from their homes, prompting calls from the U.N. for an end to the clashes and focusing fresh hopes on a nationwide cease-fire, sources in the region said Monday.

About 2,000 people have now fled the fighting in Mansi township in Kachin, a region near Myanmar’s northern border with China since the latest outbreak occurred on Oct. 16, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) officials said.

The Gayuna Foundation, a relief group, had planned before fighting broke out to visit the township’s Nantlinpa refugee camp to help villagers displaced by earlier clashes, KIA spokesman Lar Nan told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“It looks like government troops came into the village before the foundation’s trip and attacked the village,” Lar Nan said, adding, “Because the troops came in firing their weapons, the villagers and refugees ran away, and there is no one at the camps now.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. called on Monday for an “immediate cessation of hostilities,” according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The U.N. voiced particular concern for the villagers fleeing the fighting and for hundreds of schoolchildren blockaded in their school but later released following an appeal by the Catholic Church, AFP said.

Nationwide cease-fire sought

Speaking to reporters on Monday in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, KIA chief of staff Gen. Gwan Maw said that a draft proposal for a nationwide cease-fire will be released and sent to the government next week, following a Nov. 25 meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The draft will be prepared by the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), formed during a peace conference of ethnic armed groups held earlier this month in the town of Laiza in Kachin state, Gwan Maw said.

“We have to work on this process of signing on to a nationwide cease-fire agreement even though we still have fighting in our country,” Gwan Maw said.

Government negotiator Aung Min gave ethnic representatives a draft of a government cease-fire proposal on Nov. 4, “and we, the ethnic groups, have been studying it,” Gwan Maw said, adding that the government must move quickly following any cease-fire agreement to engage in a dialogue over ethnic political rights.

Ethnic rebel groups, which have fought civil wars with Myanmar’s central government since independence from Britain in 1948, individually signed numerous cease-fire agreements with the country’s former military regime in late 1989 and early 1990, with some of those agreements breaking down in 2010 and 2011.

The government has inked peace deals with 10 out of 11 major armed groups in Myanmar since President Thein Sein extended an olive branch in August 2011, after his nominally civilian government took power after decades of military misrule.

Thein Sein's efforts to secure a nationwide cease-fire are part of a bid to speed up political and economic reforms in Myanmar.

Reported by Zin Mar Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.