Q+A-What is behind clashes in Myanmar's Kachin hills?

Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:09am GMT

June 16 (Reuters) - Myanmar troops have clashed with ethnic Kachin rebels near Chinese-built dams this week, threatening Chinese energy interests in the country.

Here are some questions and answers about the conflict and the implications for China.


They are guerrillas of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the larger ethnic minority forces in northern Myanmar. The Kachin are a hill people and many of them are Christian.

The KIA group was formed in the early 1960s and for years battled the military government for greater autonomy for the Kachin hills along the border with China, which are rich in jade and timber.

The group agreed to a ceasefire in 1994 but that fell through last year when the government tried to force all ethnic minority forces to merge with its military-run Border Guard Force.

The Kachin were among those who refused on the grounds that a merger with the government force would erode their autonomy. The Kachin force numbers at least 10,000 well-armed and experienced fighters.

Ethnic minority rebel armies like the KIA have fought Myanmar's military for decades. Low-level fighting has taken place in the past year; these latest clashes are the most intense.

The Kachin, like most of Myanmar's ethnic minority factions, are not fighting to break away from Myanmar but want a federal system with a high degree of autonomy for their regions.   Continued...

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