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A rebel with the Kachin Independence Army at an outpost near the armed group’s headquarters in northern Kachin state, Myanmar, March 20, 2018 (AP photo by Esther Htusan).

Myanmar’s Ethnic Conflicts Have Multiple Fronts, and High Barriers to Peace

Thursday, May 24, 2018

As global attention remains fixed on the desperate plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, another violent military crackdown has flared almost unnoticed more than 400 miles to the northeast in the remote and mountainous state of Kachin, along the isolated land border with China. Since mid-January, battles between Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, and the ethnic rebels of the Kachin Independence Army, or KIA, have intensified in several areas of the resource-rich and historically conflict-wracked region, displacing thousands of civilians.

The surge in violence, with military airstrikes and retaliatory insurgent attacks, has dealt a severe blow to the electoral promises of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de-facto leader, who has attempted to resolve the country’s complex web of ethnic conflicts since assuming civilian power after landmark elections in 2015. Unchecked abuses by the Tatmadaw—first in Rakhine, and now in Kachin—have further damaged Aung San Suu Kyi’s past reputation as a Nobel laureate who championed democracy and defended human rights. Amid her silence over alleged military abuses, her peace efforts have made scant progress; conflict across Myanmar has, in fact, worsened since she assumed office. ...

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