Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire

 
 

The United Nations recently “hailed” the signing of a ceasefire in Myanmar, describing it as “historic.” However, fewer than half of the armed ethnic groups involved in the process actually signed the agreement and fighting continues as the oldest civil wars in the world continues to rage along the country’s northern borders.

The Kachin Independence Army, one of the largest armed ethnic groups, refused to sign the treaty, in part due to the escalation of the conflict in KIA-controlled zones over the past two months.

Behind the front lines another cold winter is approaching and the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps have been overcrowded for years. Now children born into the camps are starting to ask questions about peace and if they’ll ever see it. Young people want to get married and settle down, farmers want to see their orchards again, nobody sees an IDP camp as a long-term home, but for 150,000 Kachins, that’s precisely what the camps have become. Today many in Kachin fear that the lack of a ceasefire could lead to increased fighting. As winter looms prospects for peace are bleak.

The following images have been taken over the past five years, since the outbreak of fighting.

Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
A young Kachin Independence Army soldier on the front line takes a break to play guitar in his foxhole while his Kachin-made KA-09 rests beside him. The KIA make all their own weapons from scratch at their munitions works.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
A young Kachin Independence Army soldier is brought into Woi Chye Military Hospital at midnight after stepping on a Burmese landmine while out on patrol on the frontline. He lost his lower leg but the operation saved his life.
Image Credit: Ryan Libre – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
Village children sit on the doorstep of their home in the far north of Kachin. The house is littered with the scars of war, covered in bullet holes.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
Kachin Independence Army soldiers maintaining a distant outpost near the Chinese border. The rebels maintain trade and a dialogue with the Chinese authorities, however refugees are strictly barred from entering China or receiving aid from NGOs on the other side.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
An elephant pulls a car through the dirt roads around the Burmese-controlled area of Hpakant during the rainy season. At this time the only way to get around is on foot or by elephant, if you choose to travel by car an elephant is often required. Hpakant is the jade capital of the world. Despite the enormous wealth of natural resources in Northern Myanmar, infrastructure remains dire.
Image Credit: Hkun Lat – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
A looted and abandoned Chinese casino in downtown Laiza. The casino was built on land rented by a Chinese businessman and had to close down when fighting resumed in 2011, as its Chinese patrons weren’t enthusiastic about gambling in a war zone.
Image Credit: Ryan Libre – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
A Kachin Independence Army soldier is buried in Mai Ja Yang. The Kachins are almost entirely Christian and Mai Ja Yang is host to a number of churches, including Baptist, Catholic and Protestant.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
Villagers flee fighting on the frontline, making the difficult mountainous journey to Je Yang IDP camp. Four years after fighting resumed villagers are still arriving at Je Yang and other camps, often because of shelling hitting their village. Despite this being one of the better-maintained camps there is still poverty. No cement structures exist, most dwellings are made of plastic tarps and bamboo which in the cold Kachin winters can pose a serious health risk.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
A mist descends on Je Yang IDP camp in Kachin State. Just five kilometres from the front lines inside KIA territory, the camp was firmly established as the primary IDP camp in 2011 after the outbreak of fighting between the KIA and Burmese government forces. The camp's population has since grown to around 8,000.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
Christmas day in Laiza and a Kachin soldier, Lahpai Zau Lum awaits burial after being killed on Christmas Eve. Zau Lum was a professional football player before he left to join the Kachin Independence Army. He was killed digging up a Kachin-made land mine for maintenance.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
Kachin: Hardly a Ceasefire
A frontline Kachin Independence Army soldier stares at a photo of his girlfriend while off duty at a KIA outpost in Kachin state.
Image Credit: Hkun Li – Sakse Collective
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