A coalition of political parties in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state said on Wednesday that the national army’s offensives in Tanaing township and the Hukong Valley against an ethnic armed group could harm the government’s efforts to end decades of ethnic separatist civil wars and forge peace.
Government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) began fighting in the Tanaing gold and amber mining region on June 16.
A statement issued by the Kachin Political Cooperation Committee (KPCC), which includes the Lhaovo National Unity and Development Party, Kachin Democratic Party, and Kachin State Democracy Party, also said that villagers have lost trust in the central government and the local ethnic majority because of land grabs that accompany the hostilities.
“Local people have to move out when fighting occurs in their area, and they lose their lands and farms,” said KPCC member Jaw San Naw.
“More than 100,000 people in Kachin State have lost their land,” he said. “That’s why we released this statement because we are concerned about them.”
Civil conflicts can be solved only if ethnic people can manage the land and natural resources in their regions without any central control, requiring the implementation of the agreements made in political negotiations, the statement said.
Thousands of people have moved out of the seven wards that comprise the Tanaing gold and amber mining area since June 6, a day after the Myanmar army dropped fliers warning them to evacuate by mid-June before beginning a military clearance operation.
They have sought shelter in Christian churches and Buddhist monasteries or have returned to their hometowns elsewhere in the country.
The fliers warned that if residents failed to leave the area by June 15, the military would consider them to have connections to the KIA.
The KIA controls the areas where the mines are and depends on amber and gold mining activities as a source of income, levying a five-percent tax on mine operators.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has made ending decades-long civil wars and achieving lasting peace in the country the cornerstone of her government, which has been in power since April 2016.
Reported by Kyaw Soe Lin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.