Thousands of ethnic Lisu in Myitkyina, capital of northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, protested on Monday against an ethnic armed group for violating human rights by indiscriminately arresting and killing civilians and extorting money from them.
The protesters also took issue with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) political group, for failing to apologize for killing the Lisu people, the protesters told RFA’s Myanmar Service
They demanded an apology from the KIA and pledges not to commit the same crimes in the future and to provide assistance to the families of those they killed.
Ethnic Lisu from the towns of Myitkyina, Waingmaw, Tanaing, and Puta-O joined in the protest.
“They violate human rights, and they are unfair,” said Alay Phar Phar, a member of Lisu National Protest Committee. “They practice chauvinism when they deal with us.”
The KIA killed four Lisu people last year in the Sadon region of Kachin state as well as some this year, he said, adding that local residents have not yet been able to determine the number and identities of those who died.
RFA was unable to contact KIO leaders for comment.
The Lisu people are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group who live in northern Myanmar, southwestern China, and parts of Thailand and India. Many are Christians. An estimated 600,000 Lisu live in Myanmar.
Because they inhabit mountainous areas largely covered by dense forests, they must rely on raising livestock and hunting to make a living in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar.
Armed clashes in Kachin
The KIA has been engaged in fighting with the national army in Kachin state, with the latest clash occurring on May 19 in Hpakant township, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.
The ethnic armed group, which controls large swathes of northeastern Kachin state, has regularly engaged in hostilities with the Myanmar army since a cease-fire agreement collapsed in 2011.
In November 2016, the KIA teamed up with three other ethnic armed groups—the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—to form the Northern Alliance.
The alliance then launched coordinated attacks on 10 government and military targets in three townships in neighboring Shan state and along the105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China in retaliation for government army offensives against its soldiers.
The fighting resulted in heavy losses on both sides and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.
The protest by the Lisu in Kachin state comes as the Myanmar government gets ready to hold the second round of key peace talks known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference with various ethnic militias on May 24.
The KIA is not a signatory to the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement signed with eight ethnic armed groups in October 2015.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is spearheading the peace initiative, previously said all ethnic armed groups would be invited attend, but the KIA has suggested that it would not take part if it was invited only as an “observer” to the summit, The Irrawaddy said.
Reported by Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.