"Now Panglong Agreement is abolished. The '47 constitution destroyed. And all the agreements we made and the ceasefire we made were neglected, and the
fighting erupted," said Saboi Jum, director of the Shalom Foundation, which advocates for peace between Burma's many ethnicities. Out of 11 ethnic militias
around Burma, the Kachin rebels are the only group that remains in open conflict with the government.
The most recent 1994 ceasefire between the Kachin and the government broke down in June 2011 and gave way to fierce clashes, as well as alleged war crimes
committed by the Burma military. Roughly 120,000 civilians have fled to temporary camps in both the military and rebel-controlled areas, according to aid
workers. Fighting intensified this December and January as the military began airstrikes in the region.
The two sides appear to have reached an informal detente after talks brokered by China on February 4, with the most intense fighting giving way to sporadic
skirmishes. But a lasting peace appears as unlikely as ever as the Kachin Independence Organization rebel group and peace proponents survey the history of
broken promises, and hatred toward ethnic Burmans grows among Kachin living in displaced-person camps.
There is no definitive account of how the first shots were fired that ended the 17-year ceasefire, although both sides point fingers. It's generally agreed that tensions first began to boil over in 2010
when the Kachin Independence Army, the armed wing of the KIO, refused to meet a series of deadlines to transform into a border security force under the
oversight of the military. Around the same time, the government sent troops into a KIA-controlled area to protect workers at a Chinese dam. The KIA said
that the military needed to leave the area by May 25, 2011, while the military labeled the nearby KIA as insurgents and demanded they withdraw from the
vicinity of the dam by June 11.
Fighting broke out around this final deadline, leaving 50 dead in
the first days of the conflict. In the months that followed, NGO workers and others in the region have recorded evidence of brutal atrocities committed by
the military. Gruesome pictures of dead Kachin, including many civilians, who appear to have been tortured have been widely circulated with one Christian
relief organization suspecting the military of committing war crimes.
Fighting now seems to have subsided after the military and rebels met in China, which borders the Kachin state, on February 4 when the two sides issued vague statements about agreeing to ease tensions. May
Sabe Phyu, an aid worker with Kachin Peace Network, traveled to the region in the days immediately following that meeting. She said that Laiza, the
headquarters of the rebel's political branch and the center of much of the fighting, seemed normal and there was no sound of mortar fire. Father Paul Aung
Dang, a Catholic priest who works with another local aid organization, said recently that by all appearances there has been little fighting in Kachin since