Fighting has engulfed parts of Kachin state in northern Burma for nearly four weeks, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi tells DVB of her sadness that fellow countrymen continue to turn against one another, and urges China to engage in mediation in order to bring about an end to the conflict.
On peace in Kachin state
“As far as I understand, although the government is saying everything is peaceful now, the Kachin group is saying there is still fighting at intervals. This is a matter that shouldn’t occur when looking to shape a united and safe union. Under these circumstances, we should strive harder for national reconciliation – some see this as a hindrance for the reconciliation effort but I believe that we should strive more. These circumstances in a way are reminding us that the country will continue to face various problems if we cannot achieve national reconciliation.
“Understanding is a necessary component to make peace between any parties; there should be a mutual understanding. And to have understanding, one should be open-minded and cannot think only about what one wishes but also try to learn what others want. The majority of the people in our country want peace – none of us want these fights going on. Regardless of wherever a fight takes place – in Kachin state, Shan state, Mon state or Karen state – there will be concern among all ethnic nationalities in the country, Arakan, Chin or Burman. They will feel unhappy about it because we are all the same people living in the same country, living on the same land drinking the same water. So in order to make peace, the first step is to have the will to do so.”
“I think the Chinese government should do what they can to help while having respect for Burmese people’s wishes peace because we are neighbours just across a fence – if there is no peace and amiability on one side, it is inevitable the neighbours will also feel the impact. I heard that some refugees fled into China when the fighting broke out. So I assume wise people such as the Chinese leaders will understand that instability in their neighbouring country will also impact on their country. So I think they should work together to make an effort to bring peace to Burma based on an understanding.”
“There are two things I would like to say regarding refugees of the war. One is for China to treat the refugees, who fled there due to fighting between Kachin forces and the Burmese Army, with sympathy and understand that they didn’t want to leave their homes and native villages or towns but had no other choice. The only thing refugees can carry when they run is suffering, so they needed to be treated with sympathy and helped as one is capable of.
“I also have a message for the refugees: do not give up your hope – we will continue to work to bring those home who were forced to leave this country against their own will. There is no one who doesn’t understand the situation of the refugees and the suffering they bear. People in this country and the whole world know and there are a lot of people willing to help. So please don’t give up hope but develop your courage. Be thankful to people and countries who accepted you and please don’t forget that we are trying to build a country where all ethnic groups in live in safety and freedom.”
“In my opinion, no person would want to fight other people. Naturally aggressive people are rare. I don’t see how both the Burmese and the Kachin soldiers are happy to go to war – you could die or become disabled in a war and that would also cause your family to suffer. So who would want to do such kind of job?
“Also, we are not fighting against any foreign invaders – both the Kachin and the Burmese soldiers are children of our Union, a family in a way. I don’t think it will be comfortable for anyone to fight and kill your own family members. I want soldiers from both sides to keep in mind that we are all people of this country and although we are fighting with each other under various circumstances and contributing factors, please don’t forget that at the end of the day we will have to join hands again like brothers. Restrain yourself from holding grudges against each other and just try as hard as you can to prevent such things from happening in the future.”