The 17-year-long ceasefire agreement between the so-called ‘reform government’ of Burma and the Kachin Independent Organisation broke down on 9 June 2011 at the Burmese army’s initiation. So far the current civil war has already produced more than 100,000 Kachin refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Within a year, numerous killings and instances of torture, rape and abuse committed by the Burmese soldiers have been documented.
On the Kachin side, civilians are involved in the fighting, alongside political leaders and soldiers. They are defending their national identity which is under assault by the Burmese military who are threatening the complete extermination of Burma’s Kachin community
In the current civil war, Kachin soldiers are playing an important role. Many of them joined the army to protect their land and cultural identity. For them fighting for future generations of Kachin people is more important than their own life. Their first intentions were not to become soldiers. They joined the army in the hope of resisting the brutal attacks waged against the Kachin people by the Burmese government and of preventing the inhuman acts of the Burmese soldiers.
Many of the photographs taken by Green in north-eastern Burma in the 1920s feature Kachin soldiers. These soldiers worked under the British colonial administration and served in the British Army. Green described them as the being amongst the ‘toughest and most disciplined’ of British military recruits.
Today the majority of the Kachin population respects and supports the Kachin soldiers since they understand their underlying desires. Moreover, Kachins believe that Kachin soldiers are brave and skilful as history has proved.
My name is Gumring and I am a member of the Kachin ethnic community of Burma. Facing many current political challenges and uncertainties, Kachinland is located in north-eastern Burma, between India and China.
I was awarded a scholarship from the James Henry Green Charitable Trust for my postgraduate studies at the University of Sussex. Currently I am working on the James Henry Green collection of photographs and textiles relating to the Kachin community in Burma. This is my third blog about this collection, which is cared for at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.