In Burma’s north, thousands protest continuing low-grade war

Protesters in Kachin state, Burma, hold placards saying “For a more peaceful day, war is not the way” and “Stop civil war in Kachin state.” (Seng Mai/European Pressphoto Agency)

 October 9 at 6:49 PM
Angered by the death of a 2-year-old girl, thousands of protesters marched through Myitkyina, capital of Burma’s Kachin state, last week, demanding an end to Burmese military offensives. Protesters called for the Burmese army to withdraw its troops from the Kachin region, give unhindered access to humanitarian aid and stop human rights abuses.

Two separate protests, on Monday and Thursday, came after months of escalating clashes between the Burmese military and ethnic armed groups, and the death on Oct. 1 of a 2-year-old girl who was hit by mortar fire.

“Because of the reckless offensives of the Burmese military, children are killed and injured,” said Tsa Ji, of the Kachin Development Network Group, one of the organizers of Thursday’s protest.

It was 6:10 Saturday morning, as the children were outside playing, when six mortar grenades landed in Pu Wang village in Mung Koe Township in northeastern Burma, close to the Chinese border, residents recounted. Zung Myaw was hit by shrapnel in her head and neck. Her playmates, two boys, ages 3 and 4, were hit in their stomach and thigh. One mortar round reportedly remains unexploded in the village.

The parents of the children rushed them to hospitals across the border in Yunnan province, China. On her way there, Zung Myaw died from her injuries. She was buried in the village the day after.

After decades of conflict, insecurity, forced displacement and lack of development, public protests have been gathering strength in Burma’s ethnic areas. Tsa Ji said they’ll keep up the demonstrations and continue to demand an end to the fighting.

“We want genuine peace. Children are getting killed, families destroyed, women raped and innocent civilians tortured,” he said. “We have realized we, the public, need to start acting.”

When asked to comment on the shelling of Pu Wang village, Maj. Gen. Aung Ye Win, a spokesman at the Ministry of Defense, said, “The Myanmar armed forces were not involved in any clashes on that day, as far as I know.” He refused to give any further comments on the events.

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