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Myanmar Youth Protest Camp For Trapped Civilians 

 

Myanmar’s Kachin Youths were protesting and had opened a protest camp to try to free the trapped IDPs in the jungles in Kachin state due to the civil war. The forgotten civil war in Kachin and Shan state, Myanmar, has continued since 2011 to the present day, mainly in the Kachin region. Lately, international attention has been focused on the Rohingya crises, and this forgotten war also requires urgent attention. As the civil strife occurs between the government military and the Kachin independent army, the IDPs continue to grow in numbers, with nearly 150,000 IDPs now in 7 years of conflict according to local NGO resources.

Neglecting to provide humanitarian aid for the 150,000 IDPs, the government continues to not take full responsibility for those IDPs while local churches, NGOs and volunteer groups are providing their basic needs. It’s clear that these aids are not enough as many of the elderly have died for many reasons: trauma, depression, and insufficient food and medicine in the camps.

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Through out the years, since the war has begun, the government has been breaching international humanitarian law by blocking international aid access to those IDP camps in Northern Myanmar. With thousands more troops deploying into war zones, the government military uses civilians as human shields, bombing civilians’ houses by air strikes in many regions in kachin state, and besides that many cases of raping, killing, and slaughtering has happened which is against international law.

Military has occupied most parts of the region for business purpose of selling natural resources mining to Chinese investors in Kachin state. There have been more than 100 villages and nearly 100 Christian churches already destroyed in Kachin state since civil war broke out in 2011.

In recent cases in Tanai township, more than 2000 civilians from Aung Lawt village are trapped in the jungles by military troops while fleeing to safe zones as well, thousands of civilians from N-Jang-Yang and Lau Nau Hku villages are trapped making up more than 3000 civilians in numbers. Not only Kachin civilians, but many other ethic people who came to work as mining workers in Tanai, where amber resources are, are also waiting to escape.

On April 30, 2018, more than 5000 Kachin youths and different religious leaders gathered on Manau campus (the main remarkable place where Kachin cultural activity events happen) and protested. Since then, the Kachin youths have continued to open protest camps. The main reason for having protest camp is demanding to free all the trapped IDPs in the jungles. Their non violent protests occur in front of the Kachin state ministry’s office in Myitkyina city.

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The trapped IDPs include babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly and many people with disabilities. They have now been living in fear of food shortage, unsafe surroundings and life threatening situations for almost a month in the jungles. Giving many excuses and prolonging proper decisions to rescue these trapped IDPs, the Kachin state chief ministry’s office has given an unclear message to the youths leaders while the two youth leaders, Mr Lum Zawng and Miss Sut Seng Pan, met with ministry officials in their office on May-3-2018.

After meeting with ministry officials for a few hours, they have decided to continue to protest until minister’s office takes action to rescue all the trapped IDPs. Lum Zawng ,who is also a young lawyer, said, “ We will not stop our protest camp until the minister’s office takes action and rescues all those civilians trapped in the jungles”. This was on the 4th day of their sit-in protest and camp. Hundred of youths had already slept on the side walks of the street in front of the minister’s office in Myitkyina city.

However, the Kachin state ministry’s office had allowed the rescue of the trapped civilians on May-05-2018. Joining more youths from different cities and towns, the protest camp continues to organize peace activities in Manau park, which includes prayers and singing humanitarian songs as well as peace art creations while many religious leaders and their parents came to pray and bless them.

On May 5, 2018, a rescue team led by a group of the Kachin ministry’s office, community leaders, Red Cross members, Kachin Youths Movement Committee members, religious leaders and the Peace Creation Group started on their way to rescue trapped IDPs in Lai Nau Hku in Hpakant Township, where nearly 140 IDPs were waiting for this rescue team. Unfortunately, the rescue team was blocked by the order of the commander of the army, saying that they can only send in food but cannot lead them anywhere. Since then, the rescue team has had to return back to Manau Park in Myitkyina city.

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Meanwhile, more youths are joining this Kachin Youth Movement, with 300 from the first day to 2000 members during the last 6 days. Many Kachin people in the city are worried that there will be a crackdown if Kachin Youth Movement continues, and many youth groups across the cities such as Yangon, Pago, Mandalay, Tawng Gyi are also protesting to release civilians being used as human shields and hostages in Kachin state. More ethnics organizations stand with IDPs and solidarity with Kachin Youth Movement day by day.

On May 6, 2018, the chief minister of the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement arrived to Myitkyina city and rescued more than 190 IDPs from Lai Nai Hku village. The Kachin Youth Movement leader said they will continue to open the protest camp and will monitor the government rescue team to ensure they accomplish their mission to save the lives of all 3000 trapped IDPs, as the previous rescue team was blocked by the military.Blog

While each youth group in different towns and cities is having peace protests, some youths who led the protest in Yangon city were sued and arrested by the police department. On late May, 2018, the three Kachin organizers of the protest were sued under lawsuit by the general Myo Min Oo for accusing army at their public meeting on early week of May, and the court dates are still in the process.

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Setting commitment and planning strategies in order to rescue thousands of trapped IDPs that would fulfill the desire of the public, the Kachin youths have taken a great initiative to lift and inspire thousands of youths across Myanmar. The Kachin Youth Movement leader, Lum Zawng, who is a 29 year-old young lawyer, whose brave actions in dealing with police are the best example of youth action in such risky protest movements.

Sut Seng Htoi is a 24 year-old young singer and program director of a youth union in Myitkyina said, “ We will fight for our right even though we might have to face bloody crackdown, and are being slandered with fake news and accusations. She added, “ We have no time to explain and reply to those who are defaming us on the internet; we are busy focusing on how to rescue those trapped IDPs.”

In a poignant demonstration of their innocent search for their human rights, hundreds of IDP children who have recently arrived at Nau Nan Church IDP campus questioned if they can return to their homes when the schools start again in June, according to L Bawk Nu, who is a kachin model girl and Miss Supranational Myanmar 2015, during her visits to those camps.

Being volunteers for those war victims due to an unfair civil war which is not easy to stop, the youths understand that patience and persistence are needed to withstand such a great challenge with both the government and the military.

Their chanting goes, “ We will never give up, we will never go down.”

Reported by
JP Marip
Canada 🇨🇦