The Kachin Spring: An Eclipsed Revolution

Since the June 9th of 2011, in the midst of the so-called Burmese political ethos of “reform,” the Kachin Independence Army has increasingly engaged in arm conflicts with the Burmese military. Over 75,000 refugees are fleeing from their homes to escape from the brutality of the Burmese soldiers. Even after almost a year of escalating conflict, displacement, and humanitarian crises, the Kachins are more united and spirited for their freedom cause than they have been ever before.  The Kachin communities abroad have been raising funds to help their troubled people, voicing their concerns to the listening parties, and uplifting their prayers to God for divine protection and guidance in their struggle. The Kachins in Burma, as well as abroad, have been supportive of the vision and action of the KIO/A in an unprecedented and unparalleled fashion. The organization has achieved legitimacy at the highest level as a representative body of the majority of the Kachin population.

However, the Kachins are the lone star in the night of penumbra. All other ethnic resistance groups have signed cease-fire agreements with the government. The international communities are courting the enchanting Burmese government to be their future bride with diverse intentions. Some exiled Burmese-interest media outlets have become less critical of the government in their efforts to enter the broader mainline audiences inside Burma. They have even joined in the act of labeling the Kachin resistance as deviance by re-reporting verbatim of the government official newspaper, the New light of Myanmar, in regard to the Kachin situation. Or, they are simply reluctant to report due to notoriety attached to the current Kachin affairs in popular opinion.

The anomie, the term famously used by Emile Durkheim, can be aptly applied to explain the current state of the Kachin uprising, especially from the perspective of others. Since the means the Kachins use to achieve their goal are contradictory to the accepted ground-rules currently in place in Burma’s political arena. The Kachins, by their past experience, have lost hope in their chance of achieving freedom and equality through conventional avenues (steps that involve cease-fire, development, and “political” talk).  Plus, it is beyond their means to galvanize the support of the international community like Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party for their political advantage. Thus, they are now anomalously left to defend and fight for their goal through unconventional paths unfavorable in current political milieu in Burma.

However ostracized by many good-willed people, the anomalous Kachins have learned a few things that are important in their movement for freedom, and have grown as a people.  The eclipsed Kachins have found the shining light on the other side of darkness. In the middle of searing defensive war (over 1,000 arm clashes since June 2011) against the powerful Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, the Kachin Independent Army’s commander-in-chief General Gumhtang Gam Shawng held a public meeting on the 27th of January 2011. The meeting was one of many others that have taken place since the beginning of the renewed arm conflict. In his speech, the Gen. Gumhtang reiterated the KIO’s engagement to the Tatmadaw as well as to the public, which he called branglang masa, a transparent policy, reaching out to the stockholders and stakeholders of the conflict by explaining its mission, strategies, and vision. These public meetings, in purpose and content, show that doing revolution is changing for better for the Kachns.

In addition, engaging in their anomic revolution, the Kachins have also learned a harsh truth that the West or the powerful neighbors are not the answer for them. They have come to a grip with an unpleasant but realistic understanding that they cannot depend on any nation or organization to achieve their own freedom. They, themselves, must face the gigantic Burmese military and strive toward freedom as a people. They have increasingly come to the understanding that they themselves, as the Kachin saying puts it eloquently, must “clear the bush from their own backyard.”  The voluntary participation of Mung Shawa Hpyen Hpung (MHH), the People Militia Group, and even from the people of other ethnic groups such as Shans, Palaungs, Gurkhas and even Burmese students along side the KIA in defending the intruding Burmese Army are indicative of people shaping their destiny with their own hands.

More importantly, the Kachins have boldly asserted their fundamental rights to life and liberty as individual, as well as a people, as their divinely endowed rights that must be safeguarded and defended. In their anomic condition, the Kachins have invoked their ultimate source of legitimacy, protection and providence from God, striving toward a revolution that is something spiritual and eternal in nature. In doing so, the Kachins are marching on toward a double victory that involves a discovery of the innate value of their humanity sanctioned by the divine, and a recovery of their land confiscated by the Burmese authority.   — Jaiwa


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