More From Alder's Ledge

January 2, 2014

Savage Peace

Enduring Myanmar's "Ceasefire"
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

Praying for peace, praying to live.

When every meal is a blessing, and never guaranteed, you don't take a single grain of rice for granted. Every morsel, every last bite, is a step toward survival for the Kachin people of Burma. Their way of life was stripped from them. Their homeland laid to waste as the military of Myanmar grabbed up land and expelled the people it belongs to. Their homes were burned as the hellish minions of Myanmar's leadership trampled their fields and slaughtered their livestock. Where children once played there are now landmines and men in uniform to who the laws of war do not apply.

When every day you get to breath air free of smoke and ash is a blessing you don't take the little things in life for granted. Holidays that were once sacred may come and go without notice for many, but for those who have nothing else, they never pass without the offering of some faint sense of hope. Christmas was once a time of blessings for the Kachin people. It was celebrated in their own unique way. Now it is cherished for it's sweet, if only momentary, release from the cruel monotony of war. Celebrations that may only mirror what they once were are now the moments that Kachin children, born to this hell on earth, will remember for a lifetime. And yet these bitter sweet memories will have to be stored alongside ones that leave scars that time may never fully heal.

Peace is a lofty idea for a nation that has been at war with itself for nearly six decades. It's almost like a carrot at the end of a stick. Persistently dangling just beyond the reach of the people these wars have oppressed for so long. It is a sign of hope that they would continue to look forward towards it. Yet it is a miserable reality that the nation holding that carrot just out reach is the very reason for their suffering in the first place.

The Kachin people seek only for themselves what any other nation of men have sought out throughout all of time. They want the right to self-determination as a people, the right to preserve their heritage and culture. They seek to be recognized as a distinct culture and not forced into assimilation into an amalgamation designed by politicians who detest them on an ethic basis. But more importantly, they seek a better life for their children and a future free from the threat of war and starvation.

No people on the this planet will ever accept for their children a life worse than the one they have already endured. No mother would wish to remain silent as she watches her children waste away from hunger and disease. No father would want to live with the reality that his wife and daughters could be taken away and raped at any moment. And though these may not characterize the politics behind the war, these are the driving fears that fuel a society to resist the heavy hand of a brutal government. These are the sorts of fears that keep militias in the field and a savage military constantly beating at the door.

However despite the natural inclination of man to resist tyranny, Myanmar continues to push for more of it as they tell the world how wonderful this "ceasefire" is for the Kachin State and it's people. Behind the fog of war, which never really left, the military continues it's campaign of rape, pillage, and ruthless slaughter. The intent to intimidate what they view as the underdog is clear once the government's lies are stripped away. No amount of propaganda can hide the scars left upon the victims of this barbarism. Missing limbs and protruding ribs don't speak to peace. Children playing in squalid camps while parents wait for rations that never come doesn't indicate peace. Only the lies coming from Burma's leadership speak of this.

This is made evident when soldiers from Burma's military invade internally displaced peoples' camps (IDPs) and use what little resources these people have for their own profit.

"The FBR (Free Burma Rangers) lists and dates the Burma Army took over a camp for displaced people. On 21 November 2013, Burma Army soldiers – from Battalion 47, 56, 240, 276, and 319 – occupied Nam Lim Pa clinic, in Nam Lim Pa IDP camp, using the building to store weapons and ammunition."
~ Burma News International 1-2-14

Organizations like the Free Burma Rangers, a front line humanitarian group, have helped strip away the lies that Myanmar attempts to portray to the world. Their people on the ground record every movement the Burmese soldiers make against the Kachin civilians. Their atrocities are recorded in detail and accounts from the victims, whose voices would otherwise be silenced, are smuggled out of Myanmar. These records show where Myanmar's official party line and reality so dramatically separate from one another.

When Burma's military sets IDP camps to the torch the world is told that there are million reasons why these squalid camps go up in flames. Myanmar blames anything from a camp fire getting out of control to the refugees themselves. Yet when Nam Lim Pa went up in flames the Free Burma Rangers provided the world with photographic evidence of Myanmar's military's involvement. Unexploded mortar shells and spent rounds proved that the camp was savagely attacked and the refugees driven off as the Burmese soldiers approached in such a manner as to flush the camp entirely.

Civilians are not mentally prepared for combat in the way that soldiers are. Attacks like these are carried out to amplify the confusion and fear that sets in as the military takes camps by surprise. Though the goal is usually to simply drive off the refugees the military takes no measures to prevent casualties amongst civilians. It rather appears that the intent is to maximize the numbers of Kachin refugees killed so as to keep refugees from returning once the soldiers have moved out.

Once the attacks are over the Burmese military takes to exploiting Kachin civilians who can't escape their advance. Taking resources the Kachin people need to live, Myanmar's military deprives desperate refugees of their basic needs. In Nam Lim Pa the soldiers took rice from villagers before opening fire to drive the civilians back as the soldiers carried off their food. Helpless, the Kachin villagers had no way of hiding their rice or keeping it from troops that are still being resupplied from central Burma.

For the outside world these sorts of actions should indicate the end goal of Myanmar's war against the Kachin people. This is not a war to bring the Kachin people into the ranks of Burma's "culturally diverse" society. This is not a war to push the Kachin rebel factions into submission. This is a war to ethnically cleanse as much of the Kachin state as Myanmar possibly can before so called peace is established. The ceasefire is Burma's way of holding up a blank sheet of paper and proclaiming to the world "peace in our time".

There can be no peace with between a government and a people it wishes didn't exist. The carrot at the end of this stick is an illusion. For the actions of the Burmese military more directly reflect the intent of it's government than the words that fall from perverse lips back in Myanmar's capitol. Every drop of blood spilled on behalf of this savage peace speaks volumes to the reason the Kachin people still suffer.

Until the world is forced to realize that genocide needs not war or conflict to be effective then the peoples whose lives it claims can never be saved. The value of their existence amongst us is no more than that of the breath we exhale while proclaiming "never again". Our promise to uphold that vague proclamation falls more rapidly to the grave than the Kachin people themselves.

As a world community we must look past our hope that peace can be achieved without pain. We must realize that as long as there are men who would sacrifice entire races of men to their insanity there will always be a reason to fight. We must realize that those words, never again, so desperately need action to make them a reality.

Putting pressure upon your own government is just a start.

The most direct way to help those who need it most, the Kachin civilians who endure this tragedy, is to put your own resources into the fight. Time, money, and your voice go further than you might realize.

Two organizations to partner with in this fight for the Kachin peoples' future, and two organizations you should research for more info on this topic, are:

The Free Burma Rangers


Partners Relief and Development

When every meal you eat is just another part of your day, you have it better than most of the rest of the world. When every dollar you spend doesn't make you decide between life and death, you have something to spare. And when every breath you breathe is free from fear, you have a voice that can be used to ease the fears of others.

We here at Alder's Ledge make regular donations to Partners Relief and Development. We will never ask that you do something that we ourselves would not. When we ask you to "scream" we will always be there to help amplify your voice in any way we can. When we ask you to donate we are pleading with you to join us in our effort to put our hard earned cash behind our voice. We know that everyone of us is working hard, and those dollars probably have been dogeared for something else, yet when we ask... we ask also that you give it thought (and prayer if need be) to decide what it is you could sacrifice so that those in need don't have to.

On 22 November 2013, Burma Army soldiers from MOC 21 took 5 sacks of rice from the IDP rations at Nam Lim Pa IDP camp. While Burma Army troops were taking rice rations from IDPs, 23 villagers from Man Dau village were walking to Nam Lim Pa IDP camp. When they encountered the Burma Army troops in the area, Burma Army troops began shooting at the villagers, causing the villagers to turn and run back to Man Dau. - See more at:
On 22 November 2013, Burma Army soldiers from MOC 21 took 5 sacks of rice from the IDP rations at Nam Lim Pa IDP camp. While Burma Army troops were taking rice rations from IDPs, 23 villagers from Man Dau village were walking to Nam Lim Pa IDP camp. When they encountered the Burma Army troops in the area, Burma Army troops began shooting at the villagers, causing the villagers to turn and run back to Man Dau. - See more at:

Have questions for us?

Contact the author on Twitter - @alders_ledge
Contact a team member on Twitter - @AL_Staff

Source Documents
(note: not all listed)

Burma News International

Myanmar Times

Burma Free Rangers

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