Wednesday, January 9, 2013

RLPB 192. Burma (Myanmar): Junta escalates war against Christian Kachin

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 192 | Wed 09 Jan 2013

(plus IRAN update)
By Elizabeth Kendal 

Kachin State in Burma's far north has a profoundly Christian culture as the ethnic Kachin are overwhelmingly, devoutly Christian. The fact that Kachin State, which borders China, is rich in jade, timber and water for hydro-electricity is of more interest to Burma's Burman-Buddhist supremacist regime. The regime, which has no interest in the Kachin as human beings, is very interested in exploiting Kachin lands for the benefit of the Burman-Buddhist majority. The deeply flawed constitution of 2008 mandates centralisation of government and military against the interests and wishes of the long-marginalised and severely persecuted ethnic-religious minorities. In early June 2011 the junta used the Kachin Army's refusal to disarm, dissolve and become part of the National Army as grounds to end the 17-year-long ceasefire and go to war against the Kachin. The junta's aim is that the Christian Kachin will be terrorised into submission or otherwise they will be ethnically cleansed from their lands. This would be doubtless under a banner of 'democracy', for it is indeed what the majority of the 'elected' but junta-controlled parliament wants. [See RLPB 115 (06 Jul 2011) - Burma (Myanmar): Kachin Flee in Terror.]

In November 2011 Western governments flocked to praise and reward Burma for its 'irreversible reforms'. However, Religious Liberty Monitoring asserted that the 'token reforms' were nothing more than a smokescreen 'behind which [the junta] can pursue its brutal policies of racial and religious hatred; policies aimed at the subjugation and even extermination of the non-Burman, non-Buddhist ethnic minorities that live around Burma's periphery'. The concern was that the West was so keen to draw Burma out of China's embrace into its own that it might be willing to 'reward the tokens while ignoring the genocide'.  [See Burma (Myanmar): Interests, Smokescreens, Chemical Weapons & Ethnic Cleansing, Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM), 2 Nov 2011.]

These days it is difficult to tell whether the government of President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, the capital of Burma, is a powerless front put forward by the military junta for Western consumption, or a chameleon that changes its colours according to the direction it is facing. As many as 100,000 Kachin are now displaced and the same regime that boasts reform continues to deny humanitarian aid to areas under Kachin control. Consequently 2013 brings with it the prospect of humanitarian catastrophe. Also, while facing the West the government has been calling for military restraint, but the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) actually has been escalating its war against the Kachin. Laiza is a stronghold of and the headquarters for the Kachin Independence Organisation / Army (KIO / KIA). More than 15,000 displaced Kachin are sheltered there, struggling to survive despite the junta-imposed aid blockade. In efforts to encircle Laiza, the Tatmadaw has established a base at Lajayang, just 20km (8 miles) from the strategic city. Recently the KIA seized control of the road running from the state capital Myitkyina to Lajayang, cutting the Tatmadaw's supply line. On Christmas Day the junta ordered the KIA to clear the road so the Tatmadaw could re-supply. Naturally the Kachin Army refused to stand aside and let its enemy re-supply for war. The junta has responded with aerial bombardment from fighter jets, strafing from helicopter gunships and mortar shelling. Initially the Burmese government denied that it had been bombing and strafing the Kachin. Later it amended its story, saying that the on-going aerial bombardment was an act of 'self-defence' for the purpose of maintaining security and stability. In Laiza the Kachin are digging trenches and bomb shelters. There are fears a ground invasion or a state of siege may be imminent. (To watch for updates, see Free Burma Rangers)

MP Aung San Suu Kyi said she would not intervene without an official invitation from the government. The truth is Suu Kyi had far more power as a political prisoner with nothing to lose than she has now as a lawmaker anxious to preserve her position in parliament. Furthermore, Suu Kyi actually wants what the junta wants: centralised government with the minority Kachin represented in the parliament. But the Kachin know they would be swallowed up in a junta-controlled parliament (just as Suu Kyi has been) through the clever strategy of the junta. The Christian Kachin will defend their lands and continue to press for autonomy, because their lives and liberty depend on it. Thankfully it is their God and ours -- who is not subservient to any junta -- who has power to save. In God we trust! (Psalm 56.)


* hear the cry of his besieged and imperilled people, and hear our cry as we intercede on their behalf; may the Lord of Hosts (the commander of heaven's forces) intervene for his beloved ones in justice and righteousness and in love, mercy and grace. 'This I know, that God is for me.' (Psalm 56:9b)

* intervene in foreign policy, opening eyes and piercing consciences so that the junta might be exposed and held accountable; so that it might no longer be able to persecute, kill, rape and plunder with impunity born of 'interests'.

* supply the Christian Kachin with all their needs, spiritually and materially, that they will praise God for his goodness, and that many will see it and believe.


The Kachin Army is defending the lands and rights of the Christian ethnic Kachin in Kachin State against Burma's Burman-Buddhist supremacist junta. This year brings with it the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe because as many as 100,000 Kachin are now displaced and the regime continues to deny humanitarian aid to areas under Kachin control. The Burmese military has Laiza (the Kachin headquarters) virtually besieged, running a base only 20km away. Since Christmas Day Kachin positions close to Laiza have suffered aerial bombardment, strafing from helicopter gunships and mortar shelling. A ground invasion or state of siege may be imminent. MP Aung San Suu Kyi says she will not intervene without regime approval. It is God, however, who has power to save. In God we trust! (Psalm 56.)


UPDATE TO RLPB 191 (2 January).
: After being taken into custody on Christmas Day, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released from prison on 7 January. Christians Rash Behzad Taalipasand and Mohammadreza (Johann) Omidi, arrested in Rasht on 31 December, remain in custody as does Pastor Vruir Avanessian, an ethnic Armenian arrested while celebrating Christmas with converts on 27 December. Pastor Avanessian requires dialysis for chronic kidney disease. He is being held in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison.

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
"Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today"
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)