The Kachin Alliance, representatives of the Kachin community in the US, send a letter to President Obama on November 15, 2012. The letter was endorsed by 22 Kachin communities in United States and 15 other Kachin organizations and communities around the world.
The letter said visiting the country at this juncture might provide legitimacy to a government which has one of the worst human rights records in the world, especially in respect to our kinsmen, the Kachin, living in northern Burma. It also said it is a premature engagement with a government which remains to fund the army that currently terrorizing innocent civilians and Internally Displaced Persons. This premature engagement could undermine the United States’ stature and integrity. It warned that the potential outcomes of President Obama’s visit could further marginalize ethnic minorities in Burma and destabilize the country.
Despite widespread reports of political reform, Kachin civilians continue to suffer grave human rights abuses under the current quasi-civilian government backed by the Burma Army. They continue to commit ethnically motivated war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially our families and friends, as documented by respected human rights organizations. These crimes have intensified since the breakdown of the government’s 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independent Organization in June of last year. Within the course of a year, this ongoing offensive has displaced over 90,000 Kachin civilians, the majority of whom are now living in two dozen camps along the Chinese border. These civilians live with constant fear and uncertainty and in dire need of the most basic human needs. Nevertheless, the administration of President Thein Sein continues to block much needed aid by making it impossible for international organizations to provide assistance to internally displaced civilians. In addition, innocent Kachin continue to suffer arbitrary arrests, harassment, interrogation, and detention by government authorities.
The Kachin have an important historical connection with the United States. Senator Mitch McConnell expressed in Congressional Record on Oct 12, 2011 that Kachin contributions to the Allied efforts in Burma during World War II are legendary. Today, the Kachin are engaged in a different kind of war, a war to secure the right for self-determination that was guaranteed under the historic Panglong Agreement, the document which gave birth to the Union of Burma in its present form, said in the letter.
The alliance of Kachin communities around the world also urged President Obama to continue to stand for American values and principles in times of great strife, to serve as a witness to atrocities committed against Kachin, to use his influence as a world leader to speak out against injustice and unscrupulous terror against innocent civilians and to foster unity by engaging in dialogue with all Burmese parties, including armed resistance political organizations.
The letter requested President Thein Sein to provide assurance of a free flow of domestic and international aid for the displaced Kachin civilians, especially those living in camps along the China-Burma border, to permit the presence of UN observer teams or intermediary teams in conflict zones and IDP camps for the purpose of monitoring and preventing human rights abuses, to begin a genuine political dialogue based on Panglong Agreement and find lasting tangible solutions that will address the six decades of the country’s political turmoil and to ratify a new democratic constitution that reflects the founding principles of the Republic of the Union of Burma, which is inclusive of representatives from all ethnic stakeholders.