“May genuine peace be truly achieved.”
On Friday, June 29, 2012, a Kachin Solidarity event was held at CNX’s Documentary Arts Asia centre. Several organizers were in attendance including the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand, Friends of Burma, and the Kachin Development Networking Group. It was opening night for photographer, Hkun Li, whose exhibition, Life on the Frontline: Through the Lens of a Kachin Youth, displayed images most foreigners never see as travel to conflict states in Burma is severely restricted. The event was jammed packed with attendees as several documentary shorts were screened, a fundraiser was held, Kachin performers sang, and organizers presented on the ongoing ethnic conflict and human rights abuses taking place in Kachin State. There has been escalated conflict in Kachin State since the mid-nineties, the result of which has been 75,000 internally displaced people. When the world reads that Burma is changing, opening up, stepping toward democracy, and making positive changes for its citizens, here are some disturbing facts it must also consider:
- In the last year, the Tamadaw (Burma’s military organization) has deployed nearly 25% of it’s battalions to Kachin State escalating its war with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
- Human rights abuses have included extrajudicial killings, rape as a weapon of war, arbitrary arrests, torture, forced displacement, the use of human shields, forced labor, and the confiscation and destruction of property. All of these systematic abuses would be considered war crimes and/or crimes against humanity under international law.
- The ongoing conflict has displaced about 75,000 people including at least 10,00o refugees who have crossed the border into China.
- There are very limited relief efforts as the military continues to restrict humanitarian access to local and international organizations.
- Oil, gas, large hydropower dams and extraction projects – all of which are causing environmental degradation and human displacement – continue despite the unresolved issues within Kachin State.