Kachin conflict

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Kachin conflict
Part of the Internal conflict in Myanmar
Date 1st phase: 5 February 1961 – 24 February 1994
(33 years, 2 weeks and 5 days)
2nd phase: 9 June 2011 – present
(6 years, 4 months, 2 weeks and 1 day)
Location Kachin State and Shan State
Status Ceasefire signed by some groups; ongoing minor skirmishes


Former combatants:
Union of Burma (1961–1962)

Military governments (1962–2011)

Kachin Independence Organisation

All Burma Students' Democratic Front[1]

Arakan Army (since 2011)
Supported by:
 China (indirectly)


Casualties and losses
Unknown 700+ killed
100,000 civilians displaced (since 2011)

The Kachin conflict or Kachin War is one of multiple conflicts collectively referred to as the Internal conflict in Myanmar.

Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and government soldiers resumed in June 2011, after a 17-year-old ceasefire collapsed. The recent violence has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, and the displacement of over 100,000 civilians. Widespread use of landmines,[6] child soldiers,[6][7] systematic rape[6] and torture have been alleged by both sides.[6][8]


The Kachin Independence Movement was founded during the British colonial rule in Burma in the 1940s. Its purpose was to address questions of ethnic group and minority representation and rights in the predominantly Bamar country of Burma.

First conflict (1961–1994)[edit]

Conflicts in Kachin State and other Kachin populated areas have occurred since Burmese independence from the United Kingdom. Kachin troops previously formed a significant part of the Burmese army. With the unilateral abrogation of the Union of Burma constitution by the Ne Win regime in 1962, Kachin forces withdrew and formed the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) under the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Aside from the major towns and railway corridor, Kachin State has been virtually independent from the mid-1960s through 1994, with an economy based on smuggling, jade trade with China, and narcotics.

After a Myanmar army offensive in 1994 seized the jade mines from the KIO, the Kachin Independence Army signed a peace agreement with the Government of Myanmar on 24 February 1994, which resulted in an end to large-scale fighting and lasted until June 2011.

Second conflict (2011–present)[edit]


Fighting erupted between Kachin Independence Army and Myanmar Army troops on 9 June 2011, when government forces broke the ceasefire and attacked KIA positions along the Taping River east of Bhamo, Kachin State, near the Taping hydroelectric plant.[9] Fighting occurred throughout Kachin State, which is about the size of Portugal, as well as the Northwestern portion of Shan State.[10]

On 14 June 2014, KIA rebels captured two hydroelectric plants and took 6 soldiers and several Chinese workers hostage for several hours. Government troops then stormed the buildings. A total of 6 people were killed and 4 wounded in the incident.[11]

According to news reports fighting broke out as a result of the central government attempting to take control of Kachin Independence Army controlled areas and to secure areas around lucrative energy projects in Kachin and Shan state, the majority of which are backed by the Chinese government.[12] Despite a December 2011 statement by Myanmar's President Thein Sein that he had ordered the army to cease its campaign in Kachin state the conflict continued into 2012.[13]

In 2012 the largest battles occurred in March along the Myitkyina-Bhamo road.[10] In April the battle for Pangwa in Chipwi Township near Luchang was fought between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the government of Myanmar. Fighting occurred in late April when the KIA launched an offensive to capture the Burmese military posts around Pangwa, Kachin State. They succeeded and the Burmese army retreated from the area by the end of April.[14][15][16] In August in Hpakant, where rebels claimed to have killed 140 Myanmar Army troops when they exploded mines buried inside the Myauk Phyu (White Monkey) jade mine which is owned by the Wai Aung Kaba Company,[17] and in December and January 2013 around Laiza where airstrikes and artillery were heavily used against KIA positions.

On 19 November 2014, Myanmar troop attacked a Kachin Independence Army headquarters near Laiza, killing at least 22 insurgents.[18]

Ceasefire talks[edit]

Numerous rounds of ceasefire talks have taken place between the Kachin Independence Army and the Government of Myanmar since fighting restarted in June 2011. According to a 18 December 2012 report by the Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner in the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, many people have criticised the foreign backed ceasefire efforts for "avoiding discussions of political issues and only emphasizing ceasefires, disarmament and economic development, those interlocutors—including a 'Peace Support Initiative' sponsored by the Norwegian government and in a separate initiative the Switzerland-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue—are essentially promoting the government's view".[9] The Australian reported that some Kachin Business leaders were calling on Aung San Suu Kyi to help mediate the dispute[13] and on 6 January 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi said that she could not step into the negotiations without an official invitation from the government to do so, which she had not received.[19]

2013 ceasefire talks[edit]

On 18 January 2013, immediately prior to an international donors conference in Myanmar, President Thein Sein announced a unilateral ceasefire in the war between the army and the KIO.[20] The ceasefire was said to take effect the following day, on 19 January, but light fighting was also reported the following day[21] and a full-scale government assault was reportedly launched on 20 January and included "sustained mortar and artillery fire" followed by "hundreds of Burmese troops" storming a KIA base on the outskirt's of rebel-held town of Laiza.[22]

The government of Thein Sein was reported to be under pressure from "political and business circles" who believed the "escalating conflict would undermine Myanmar’s emergence from decades of diplomatic isolation" and had passed a resolution in parliament calling on Min Aung Hlaing, the military’s commander-in-chief, to scale down the war.[23] Min Aung Hlaing responded by stating that the military would only carry out attacks only in "self-defense"—the rationale it has consistently given since December 2011[24] for prosecuting a war against the KIA and the rationale it gave for allowing airstrikes on rebel positions starting on 26 December 2012.[25]

On 4 February, Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Army met in Ruili, China and agreed to reduce military tension in Kachin State and hold further peace talks later in February.[26] However no talks took place later in February but almost no armed clash reportedly happened in Kachin State after the peace talks.[27] According to Mizzima news, on 26 February a KIO central committee member claimed that they would not be meeting with the government in February because they needed more time to consult with the "Kachin people" regarding the negotiations.[28] Burmese government and KIA renewed peace talks in Ruili, China on 11 March 2013.[29] The Chinese government’s refusal to allow observers from western countries at peace talks had delayed negotiations, despite the Chinese rejecting the allegations.[30][31]

On 30 May, Burmese government and Kachin Independence Army signed a preliminary ceasefire agreement that would lead to further progress towards reaching a peace deal. The parties however, failed to reach an official ceasefire agreement. United Nations special adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, also joined the meeting as an observer, along with representatives of China and other ethnic minorities.[32][33]

However, the Burmese government and Kachin Independence Army failed to reach a permanent ceasefire agreement after several peace talks in 2013, but agreed to work together towards permanent ceasefire agreement and reduce hostilities.[34][35]

2014 ceasefire talks[edit]

Renewed fighting broke out in April 2014 when the Burmese army attacked various KIA positions around Mansi Township, Kachin State and northern Shan State to eradicate timber smuggling and to control strategic routes around their strongholds.[36] The Kachin Independence Army requested a meeting in Myitkyina on 10 May to lessen tensions between the sides.[37]

Negotiations aimed at drafting a nationwide ceasefire agreement began in April 2014 at Myanmar Peace Centre between representatives of various ethnic armed groups and Burmese government, but KIA and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) are the only two armed groups that have not yet signed ceasefire agreement with the government.[37][38]

The KIA's deputy commander-in-chief Gun Maw urged the United States to get involved in the peace process in April 2014.[39]


On 2 January 2013, the Burmese government confirmed that it carried out airstrikes a few days earlier against the ethnic rebels in northern Kachin, in response to attacks by the Kachin Independence Army.[40] The US government stated that it would "be formally expressing our concern" over the escalation of force used by Myanmar government.[41] On 3 January 2013, the KIA alleged that air-strikes had continued to occur for the sixth consecutive day in the area around Laiza and there were allegations that the Myanmar Armed Forces was also using chemical weapons[42] UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated following the incidents that Burma's authorities should "desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians living in the area or further intensify conflict in the region".[43]

Civilians and refugees[edit]

Civilians have also been killed in fighting as well as having been specifically targeted.[8] Civilians were often displaced by fighting and faced dangers such as landmines which were frequently laid by government and rebel forces without regard for civilians. Although some civilians had crossed the border with China most remained in northern Burma as of December 2012.

Refugees were being forced by the Chinese government back into Myanmar in August 2012 despite the continued fighting there and the illegality of forcibly returning civilians to war zones under international law.[44][45] Women have played a significant role in the conflict as both combatants and victims. Time Magazine documented the presence of many female KIA soldiers in 2012.[46]

In February 2013 the NGO Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) reported that the fighting had created over 100,000 refugees and that 364 villages had been wholly or partially abandoned since 2011.[47] The organisation's report also stated that the Burmese Army deliberately attacked refugee camps and villages as well as committed alleged "war crimes" such as the rape and murder of civilians.[47]

Child soldiers[edit]

Child soldiers have and continue to play a major part in the Burmese Army as well as rebel movements. The Independent reported in June 2012 that children were being sold to the Burmese military for "as little as $40 and a bag of rice or a can of petrol".[48] The UN's Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who stepped down from her position a week later, met representatives of the Government of Myanmar on 5 July 2012, and stated that she hoped the government's signing of an action plan would "signal a transformation".[49]

In September 2012 the Myanmar Armed Forces released 42 child soldiers and the International Labour Organization met with representatives of the government as well as the Kachin Independence Army to secure the release of more child soldiers.[50] According to Samantha Power, a US delegation raised the issue of child soldiers with the government in October 2012, however, she did not comment on the government's progress towards reform in this area.[51] A Bangkok Post article on 23 December 2012, reported that the Myanmar Armed Forces continued to use child soldiers including during the army's large offensive against the KIA.[7][unreliable source?]


  1. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20140116090614/http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/22042. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 4 February 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  3. ^ MMPM: Stakeholders - ABDSF
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