Leading members of the Kachin community in America with the Kachin Alliance USA (KA-USA) have publicly declared their intention to boycott the Congressional award ceremony for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The ceremony scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Washington DC will see Aung San Suu Kyi receive Congress' highest award.
In an open letter to the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader KA-USA explained why the group had turned down their invitation to attend the event which is expected to be closely followed by US and international media.
"We Kachins cannot, however, participate in this joyous occasion, as our hearts are heavy with sadness and trepidation, mindful of the untold miseries our kinsmen in Kachinland are currently going through,” the open letter said.
"We feel that it is inappropriate for us to rejoice and celebrate when the tens of thousands of our people displaced by renewed fighting are in dire need of the most basic of human needs, when they have to live in constant fear and uncertainty, when Chinese authorities have dismantled refugee camps on their borders and sent them back into conflict zones, when their rights are being violated even in the sanctity of a church-run camp in government controlled territory," the open letter continued.
The letter urged Aung San Suu Kyi to take more interest in the Kachin conflict and advocate for Kachin refugees who describes as being in dire need of humanitarian aid. The letter asked that Aung San Suu Kyi advocate for "a political dialogue leading to a genuine federal union that guaranteed equality and self-determination for ethnic nationalities”. The letter also called on Aung San Suu Kyi to use her seat in parliament to push for cutting of funds for the military's costly campaign in Kachin state.
In an interview with the Kachin News Group (KNG) KA-USA spokesperson Nsang Gum San explained why the group had resorted to writing an open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi. “We are asking her because she has influence” Gum San said. “This war started with shooting from the government's army so the army and the government should be blamed,” he added.
Suu Kyi's refusal to condemn military's aggression in Kachin state upsets many Kachin
Despite the fact that leading human rights organization's including Human Rights Watch have issued detailed reports accusing Burmese military forces of committing serious human rights abuses against Kachin civilians since the military unilaterally ended a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization in June of last year, Aung San Suu Kyi has avoided directly criticizing the army's actions in Kachin state.
At speech at the London School of Economics (LSE) in June of this year Burma's famed opposition leader responded to a question from a Kachin member of the audience about the Kachin conflict by claiming that it was still unclear what was going on in Kachin state because there is a lack of “independent observers” on the ground which has resulted in a situation where there are “different accusations coming in from different directions”.
"But when it comes to condemnation we want to know what's happening more clearly before we condemn one party or the other," she explained before adding "resolving conflict is not about condemnation it’s about finding out the roots, the causes of that conflict and finding out how it can be resolved in the best way possible."
Many Kachin were extremely frustrated with these comments which appear to be Aung San Suu Kyi most detailed public statement about the Kachin conflict since the fighting resumed last year. One Kachin human rights activist told KNG "How can Aung San Suu Kyi not be aware of the Human Rights Watch report about war crimes in Kachin state? She needs to speak out and criticize the army or the Kachin people won't trust her."