WORLD CITIZENS CALL FOR A HALT TO ARMED VIOLENCE AGAINST THE KACHIN AND TO FACILITATE THE RETURN OF KACHIN REFUGEES FROM CHINA TO BURMA
On June 20, the United Nations-designated World Day for Refugees, the Association of World Citizens appealed to the Government of Myanmar (Burma) to halt the new round of violence against the Kachin national minority. The fighting erupted on June 9, 2011 and has already led to thousands of persons being displaced and others fleeing as refugees into China. Such a halt would be in keeping with President Thein Sein’s March 2011 inaugural address to the newly elected Parliament where he said that the door for peace is open.
In a separate Appeal to the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, René Wadlow, Senior Vice President and Chief Representative to the United Nations (UN), Geneva of the Association of World Citizens, called upon China to help in mediating the conflict between the Myanmar military and the armed insurgency, the Kachin Independence Army. Until calm and security is re-established in the Kachin and Northern Shan States of Myanmar, refugees should be granted refuge in China.
China, after many years of support for the communist-led Kachin insurgency, stopped its aid at some point in the 1980s, cutting off the supply lines through China. The communist leadership of the Kachin was then replaced by less ideological and more ethnic-nationalist leaders. The Chinese government saw its interest in supporting the Myanmar government, and China has become the chief trading partner of Myanmar. Thus China is well placed to play a mediation role.
The Kachin are originally from Tibet and have migrated into Burma and the Yunnan Province of China over the last 200 years. Thus the Kachin have fellow ethnic members who care for them when they cross the frontier into Yunnan. However, the Chinese government does not like refugees, having less control over them. Thus it would be in the interest of China to help restore security in Kachin State which since March has its own State Parliament.
There have been on-and-off cease-fire agreements between the Myanmar government and most of the national minority armed insurgencies. The most recent cease-fire agreement with the Kachin dates from 1994, and thus world citizens can call for the application of the 1994 accord.
The reasons for the current outbreak of armed violence are unclear. As Edith Mirante wrote in her account of the insurgencies in Burma “This was a terrible, filthy war. There was nothing cool or little about it. There was no rationale, no justification for its having gone on for so long. Apparently wars didn’t have expiration dates like milk cartons. Sometimes they just didn’t end.” (Edith Mirante, Burmese Looking Glass (New York: Grove Press, 1993, p116).
Myanmar faces two basic and related issues: the installation of democratic government and a constitutional system which allows autonomy to the national minorities. Both tasks are difficult. There is little democratic tradition or ethos upon which to structure a democratic government. The majority of the seats in the newly-elected national Parliament is held by serving military officers or by officers who “retired” so they could run for Parliament as civilians. Likewise there is little “national vision” or pluralistic leadership among the national minorities. What leadership exists both in the national government and among the ethnic minorities is often motivated by personal and clanic interests, and leaders recruit allies similarly motivated. Only peace will allow new leadership to emerge with broader motivations and allow all citizens to participate freely in a renewed political process.
Therefore, there needs to be an immediate cessation of hostilities and then efforts to strengthen the processes of the newly created Kachin Parliament.
The Ambassadors of Myanmar and China were assured that the Association of World Citizens will continue to follow the situation closely and was ready to help in whatever way a non-governmental organization could be of use.