Hundreds die in obscure war on Burma’s border with China
The skirl of bagpipes drifts over the highlands of Burma’s northern Kachin State as the country’s most feared rebel army drills in preparation for action against demoralised government forces. This is one of Asia’s forgotten wars - and it’s going on right now.
Hundreds of Kachin soldiers and Burmese army regulars have reportedly died and 30,000 Kachin villagers have fled to makeshift refugee camps on the Chinese border since a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burma’s new government broke down in June.
“There’s a full-scale war going on over there,” said Swedish journalist and author Bertil Lintner, an authority on Burma and its ethnic minorities, visiting Chiang Mai after touring the mountainous Chinese region bordering Burma’s Kachin State.
Communications with Burma’s northernmost state are difficult at the best of times. But human rights organisations say they are receiving credible reports of widespread brutality by government forces frustrated by a well trained Kachin army employing guerrilla tactics they learned in World War Two when they helped the Allies chase the Japanese Imperial Army out of Burma.
Frustrated by the KIA’s hit-and-run tactics, the Burmese government regulars are reportedly responding with search-and-destroy raids on Kachin villages. Human Rights Watch says it has well documented reports of government troops looting and destroying villages, stealing livestock and raping local women.