A Bombing in Northern Myanmar Signals Strife Beyond the Rohingya

In the flier, General Kyaw Than Swe said that six men and four women from the Kachin Independence Army and 20 people from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army were expert bombmakers and that they would target crowded places like markets, government buildings, and bus and railway stations.

“We got the information that they were making bombs a long time ago so that’s why we distributed the fliers,” Maj. Khaing Zaw Win from the Military Security Department said on Wednesday. “The Northern Alliance is destroying peace and disturbing the public.”

Last year, a rocket-propelled grenade hit a KBZ Bank branch in the town of Muse, also in northern Shan State. The Myanmar military blamed the Northern Alliance for that assault.

A Bombing in Northern Myanmar Signals Strife Beyond the Rohingya
A Bombing in Northern Myanmar Signals Strife Beyond the Rohingya

But ethnic rebels routinely reject such accusations. They contend that Myanmar’s military faults ethnic insurgents for instigating violence to justify their brutal offensives against ethnic populations.

Fighting in Myanmar’s borderlands is at its worst in years.

The Kachin Independence Army, in particular, has lost territory to the Myanmar military in the intense fighting recently. An estimated 100,000 ethnic Kachin have been displaced from their homes; some have fled across the border into China.

Civilians, including gold and amber miners, have been caught in the crossfire, which extends from Kachin State to northern Shan State. Others have disappeared in areas taken over by the military. The Kachin are mostly Christian in a majority Buddhist land.

Since her government took power in 2016, Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has vowed to bring peace to a country that has suffered from some of the world’s longest-running ethnic conflicts, but the results have been judged worldwide to be far short of what is needed.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has held two peace conferences that seemed to have had little effect on fighting, which has continued. This month, the government announced that a group representing the ethnic Mon and a little known entity from the ethnic Lahu would be joining a national cease-fire agreement.

Newsletter Sign Up

Continue reading the main story

Thank you for subscribing.

An error has occurred. Please try again later.

You are already subscribed to this email.

View all New York Times newsletters.

  • See Sample
  • Manage Email Preferences
  • Not you?
  • Privacy Policy
  • Opt out or contact us anytime

Most major combatants, like members of the Northern Alliance, however, have refused to join a peace process they claim has been rigged from the start. They say that persecution by the Myanmar military, which ruled the country for nearly half a century, has not ceased in ethnic areas.

International human rights groups have for decades accused the military of gang-raping ethnic-minority women and forcing ethnic-minority civilians to act as human minesweepers, among other war crimes.

Myanmar’s security forces have also orchestrated a campaign of what the United Nations calls ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, a mostly stateless ethnic group, in far western Rakhine State. Hundreds of villages once populated by the Rohingya have been burned down since August.

Much of Myanmar’s natural resource bounty is concentrated in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, who make up at least one-third of the country’s population.

Businesses operating in these ethnic strongholds complain that they have to pay levies to ethnic armed groups, as well as taxes to the government.

U Min Zaw Oo, a peace negotiator under the previous transitional government, said that Yoma Bank had a policy of not paying such fees to the ethnic militias.

Yoma Bank representatives did not immediately respond to this claim.

But with all manner of illegal trade proliferating in the foothills of the Himalayas — from timber, jade and gold to opium, methamphetamine and endangered wildlife — business remains vibrant in many ethnic borderlands.

Lashio, for instance, is a conduit to China, and the road through town is often jammed with trucks and motorcycles laden with Chinese goods.

The city is also not far from areas where ethnic populations are struggling, with no end in sight to fighting between the military and ethnic insurgents.

In a statement this month, Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, stressed that the global focus on the Rohingya crisis was diverting attention from serious strife in the rest of the country.

“Representatives from different ethnic groups that I met,” Ms. Lee said, “expressed their concern that as the world’s attention is focused on the atrocities in Rakhine State, potential war crimes are being committed in Shan and Kachin State without so much as a murmur of disapproval from the international community.”

Hannah Beech reported from Bangkok and Saw Nang from Yangon, Myanmar.

Continue reading the main story

Similar Posts