Heavy Fighting in Kachin and Northern Shan States Despite a New Ceasefire
On 21 Dec. 2018, the Burma Army announced a four-month ceasefire for Kachin State and northern Shan State with the goal of resuming peace talks with members of the Northern Alliance, composed of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Taang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA). The ceasefire was eventually extended until 21 Sept. 2019 but reports throughout the year showed continual ceasefire violations. The Burma Army planned and carried out attacks against Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) with alarming frequency throughout the year. The geographic spread of the clashes as well as their frequency and the number of units and troops involved indicated renewed military campaigning by the Burma Army. April 2019 saw high activity as Burma Army soldiers traversed northern Shan State and Kachin State, engaging in clashes nearly every day. For example, on April 18, the KIA detonated a mine under a bridge where Burma Army soldiers were crossing. The Burma Army retaliated by sending out groups of 80 to 100 soldiers to nearby villages to find the KIA. Heavy fighting started as the KIA defended against the Burma Armys advances and the fighting continued through the rest of the week until April 24. Similar clashes between the Burma Army and the MNDAA and TNLA were reported throughout the same month. Amidst the fighting between the armies, civilians continue to be the victims of the conflict in Kachin and Shan states. Fighting often occurs in close proximity to villages. As a result, incidents of rape, deadly wounds by Burma Army artillery, and the displacement of thousands have been reported. On 9 Dec. 2019, two Burma Army soldiers raped 17-year-old Dashi Hkawn Tsin, in Bhamo Township, Kachin State. She was later admitted to the Bhamo Hospital in critical condition. The next day, in Myitkyina Township, an unknown group raped and killed a 23-year-old primary school teacher, Mya Tazin, on the road that led to her school.
On 26 Aug. 2019, Lt. Col. Than Htike, of the Burma Armys Northern Command, filed a lawsuit against a Kachin pastor, Rev. Hkalam Samson, for statements he made in the United States while meeting with President Trump. Rev. Samson, who is also the president of the Kachin Baptist Convention, told President Trump that he thought the then-recent sanctions against Burma Army Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing and three other senior officials were helpful. The filed charges sparked protests in Kachin State and statements from the international community, including the United States government, expressing their concern about the lawsuit and support of Rev. Samson. On 9 Sept. 2019 the charges were dropped when the Burma Army withdrew the case. Throughout August 2019, fighting in Shan State displaced almost 8,000 people. Humanitarian groups and volunteers struggled to provide assistance as they, too, came under attack. On 17 Aug. 2019, an attack on an ambulance near Lashio, Shan State, killed one relief worker and wounded several others. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 31 Aug. 2019, a suspected mortar attack killed five civilians in northern Shan State. Three of those killed were children. According to the United Nations Information Center in Yangon, at least 17 civilians were killed and another 27 wounded in a span of about 20 days in northern Shan State alone. Despite peace talks that happened in late Sept. 2019, it remains unclear whether or not 2020 will bring a true ceasefire and relief for those in northern Burma