MYITKYINA (SE): “I appeal to all parties to return to the peace negotiation, since peace is possible, peace is the only way,” Bishop Francis Daw Tang, from the war-torn diocese of Myitkyina in the Kachin state of the Union of Myanmar, said in a strongly worded appeal for peace on February 8.
The respected bishop said that five decades of war in the Kachin state has bred nothing other than hatred and agony. He released his statement as the bitter armed conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese military, which has resulted in wholesale destruction from aerial bombing and the displacement of over 100,000 people from their homes, escalated.
Despite endless peace talks with the government, the north-eastern states of Kachin and Shan, home to two of the biggest minority groups in the union, the armed conflict has continued.
Bishop Daw called on all involved parties to address the root causes of the present conflict, which he described as being rooted in prejudice.
“The favouritism shown to one race and religion and language, that opened a festering wound in the cultural heart of many communities, can be healed only by true federalism, a meaningful participation in decision-making and the sharing of resources,” Bishop Daw said.
In his statement, he described the impact of the intense violence of the last 20-months as being totally destructive of the lives of the people.
“As a Church, we walk with our displaced people, watch their life being destroyed by war, their families fragmented by depressing life in the displaced camps,” he said.
“We are deeply concerned about the escalation of war in the recent weeks, use of heavy weaponry, aerial bombing, increasing lack of clarity about conflict zones and civilian areas, unequal warfare waged during holy days of our faith, unacceptable conflict practices that force thousands to be displaced, exposing children and women to life threatening sickness in the acute winter,” he continued.
Bishop Daw called for the Kachin state to follow “the consensus arrived at in Panglong to accept the unity and diversity principle.
” The agreement was made by a general from the Burmese military, Aung San, the leaders of the Kachin people and other ethnic groups prior to the country’s independence in January 1948.
Aung San died a few months after the Panglong agreement was signed and the clauses, which granted a fair amount of autonomy to the country’s ethnic groups were never fully implemented by U Nu, the first prime minister of independent Burma.
The majority of the Kachin population is Baptist, but a sizable minority is Catholic.
On February 7, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Burma at the United Nations, Ashok Nigam, called on the government of Myanmar to speed up access to internally displaced people throughout the Kachin state.
Nigam welcomed a statement from the administration of Thein Sein in Naypyidaw to allow humanitarian assistance. However, whether this will eventuate or not remains to be seen, as such promises have been broken many times in the past.