An Ethnic War Is Rekindled In Myanmar
Even as the Burmese government initiates political reforms in much of the country, it has intensified an ethnic civil war here in the resource-rich hills of northern Myanmar, a conflict that at once threatens its warming trend with the United States and could alienate Chinese officials concerned about stability on the border.
This month hundreds of mortar rounds fired by the Burmese military landed within miles of this town near the mountainous Chinese border. International human rights groups and soldiers and officials of the Kachin ethnic group say that Burmese soldiers have burned and looted homes, planted mines, forcibly recruited villagers as porters and guides, and raped, tortured and executed civilians. Several thousand villagers have fled to China. Tens of thousands more who have been displaced could follow if the Burmese Army continues its offensive, local relief workers say.
Lazum Bulu will not be going farther. Exhausted by the flight from her village, she died on Jan. 10 in a bare concrete room in a camp here for the displaced. People said she was 107. Her body lay on blankets on the floor. “I regret that my mother can’t be buried with my father,” said her daughter, Hkang Je Mayun. “The Burmese Army was coming, and we didn’t want to live in the village anymore. We were afraid they would kill all the Kachin people.”
The fighting has raised questions about the limits of the reform agenda pushed by President Thein Sein, Myanmar’s first civilian president in nearly 50 years, who has led the opening to the West. Some analysts in Myanmar say Mr. Thein Sein has been unable or unwilling to control the generals pressing the war.