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Myanmar is haunted by oppression and conflict

Updated: May 23

Myanmar is again being shaken by major internal conflict. An estimated 29 lives have been taken in a military attack in a displacement camp. The camp houses thousands of people near the Chinese border, displaced after decades of conflict at the hands of the state and the politically powerful military.

Camps have become home for those ravaged by war. After so long, they have become an infrastructural necessity in the north of Myanmar, where the attacks on ethnic minority groups have become most prevalent. The north of the country has also become a great source of interest for Burmese military organisations. It is estimated that there are 140 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) sites in Kachin and Shan, and well over 160,000 civilians rely on these spaces; approximately 9.5% of people in this region are totally reliant on IDP infrastructure.

The tensions have led to poorer living conditions and levels of inequity for those of Kachin ethnic background in the region, and those living in other areas in Myanmar. The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) is one of many groups fighting against what they see as an oppressive state and for their right to self-determination. The KIO fights against Myanmar’s current military junta, which has repeatedly attacked civilians in the region to assert its authority. The state wishes to undermine the region's sovereignty and delegitimise the political and rebel groups in the North.

The history of the Kachin region is blood-soaked, and the current conflict is similarly vicious.

Since the 2021 coup in Myanmar, which overthrew the democratically elected National League for Democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, power has been seized by a historically and contemporaneously violent military. Since the coup and the military's total seizure of power, 55,000 buildings have been burnt down and over 3,000 lives have been lost.

The state of Myanmar has also cut aid to the region. The resources and aid needed to improve living conditions in the north have been diverted and refused continuously. Essential amenities are, of course, also under secure lock by the military dictatorship, leading to minimal electricity production. This has also seen the construction of all new forms of renewable energy infrastructure halted in the face.

1994 was supposed to be the neat bookend of this conflict only for it to re-open, once again, a little more than a decade later. The recent strikes have provoked skirmishes and increased pushback against the powerful junta. If a resolve cannot be met to end this regional tension, the people of the Kachin region will continue to band together and fervently oppose this current government, generating more violence. They do not forget the atrocities Myanmar has committed against them; their pain is soaked into the very land. No wonder they continue to look to the KIO for security.

The international community have, of course, taken note of the atrocities in Myanmar, leading to sanctions from the UK targeting those working at the core of the military state. Aid has also been sent from the UK to the Kachin region, and there has long been contact and interest in providing assistance led by British Minister, Hugo Swire. Since 2014 the UK has marked itself as a primary aid supplier to those oppressed by Myanmar's state apparatus.

The British Embassy has for the last nine years attempted to collate a peace project and provide financial aid to the people of the Kachin region. This has led to 26,000 having access to improved sanitation facilities.

In 2018, the UN also called the for those leading military officials to be held accountable for the crimes of genocide because of their operations against and abuse of the Kachin people.

The US State Department also released a statement that said they 'strongly condemn the military regime's ongoing attacks.'

In light of recent events, these efforts have done little to quell the violence and have provoked very little in the realm of peace talks. The military dictatorship and authoritarian rule in Myanmar prevents peaceful negotiations or discussions of Kachin independence. The Kachin cannot enter into an agreement with the state whilst it continues to threaten, oppress and kill them.

The most recent attack further illustrates the chaotic and cruel politics of Myanmar. It is a nation that seems insistent on saving itself from its few imagined foes, instead of any kind of pragmatic approach to its internal conflict. This ultimately has led to the state taking an offensive position in most disputes. Now, after years of slow change and renewed military brutality, Aung San Suu Kyi's once visionary, Nobel Prize-winning pledges have fallen away and the junta’s overarching power has returned to subjugate Myanmar’s citizens to its terrorisation.


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