The Kachin affair is a Bamar affair. In more ways than one.
The Kachin — long connected to Burma — are taken as kinsman by the common Burmese people. Even disregarding their forceful integration by way of “model villages” and the like, there have been long and intricate associations between the Kachin and Burma’s lowland dwellers.
At the same time, there is a palpable increase in chauvinistic attitudes in some quarters drummed up by the military which traditionally has an intensely racist, chauvinistic foundation. The three Warrior Kings of the statutes in (horridly named) Naypyidaw were all Burmese (Bamar).
Still, there have been concerted efforts by the common people of lowland Burmese to stop Burma’s wars by congregating for peace prayer sessions at Botataung Pagoda in Yangon.
After Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, those grass-root movements paradoxically stopped but are now picking up again without her official blessing or involvement. This culminated in the largest public demonstration in Yangon since 2007 seen on the International Day of Peace, 21September 2012. So the Kachin affair is now becoming a Bamar affair.
With the impetus coming from the grass-roots of the Bamar public.
But it is worrying that another interpretation of “Kachin affairs being Bamar affairs” is the extraordinary number of Bamar military casualties reported from the front lines by the Kachin News Group. This point has also generated some discussion on New Mandala in the past.
Realistically, the number of casualties is never going to be known unless the warring parties publish them with credible evidence. The Kachin article quoted Bamar military deaths at 10,000 in the space of one and a half years. It is concerning as the reports of deaths are increasing in recent months than earlier times. With the rainy season gone, there are likely to be more engagements. At the same time, the battle lines which were around the dams where the first skirmishes took place in June 2011, and along the Chinese gas pipeline, have now widened to the commercial jade production area of Hpakant. Attacks around and towards the Kachin capital of Myitkyina are also being talked about.
Even if half of the casualties reported are true, it is disturbing that there is no demonstration of anguish among the Burmese people regarding such large, rapid losses. Not a single even remotely related report is found in the newly supposedly “free” media inside or outside the country about the effect of these casualties on the Burmese populace in general or their close relatives in particular. This is something the American military may want to learn from their new best friends, Burmese military counterparts. A lesson in how to keep a tight lid on any repercussions from huge casualties. Intense and absolute repression: deception lesson 101.
It does raise the question of the voicelessness of the Bamar soldiers and their relatives.
Ohn is a commentator on contemporary Burmese politics