In the northernmost state of Myanmar (also known as Burma), the country's army has been engaged in a brutal conflict with the Kachin, a predominantly Christian ethnic minority group of roughly one million people. A 17-year-old truce between the Myanmar and Kachin armies fell apart in 2011, and since then, government forces have been accused of subjecting the Kachin community to unlawful killings, forced labor, rape, and torture.
In 1947, the Kachin signed the Panglong Agreement to join the Union of Burma and seek independence from Great Britain. That agreement in principle established the autonomy of the Kachin and other signatory ethnic groups. But the Panglong agreement was never implemented. With discrimination and inequality on the rise, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) was formed in 1961 with the aim of winning independence from Burma. By the 1990s, KIO and other armed ethnic organizations had shifted their demands from full independence to the establishment of a federal union in Burma. Today the KIO is fighting to preserve Kachin culture, and for greater control of Kachin State's abundant natural resources and territory within Myanmar's federal state system.
The ongoing conflict has caused numerous casualties -- barriers to media access make exact numbers difficult to obtain -- and displaced more than 100,000 civilians. Despite Myanmar President Thein Sein's directive to stop the military offensive against the Kachin, the army has continued to launch attacks. While the premier has reached ceasefire agreements with other ethnic minorities in recent years, his negotiation team's talks with the KIO have failed to yield a truce.
Myanmar's Kachin people remain under siege, but the government's cease-fire negotiations with the KIO and other armed ethnic organizations are set to resume this month. After decades of authoritarianism and intermittent war, successful negotiations could open a path to the autonomy that the Kachin community has sought for so long. But in the meantime, the conflict continues to take a toll on the daily life of the Kachin -- from weddings and festivals to trade and travel.
Above, Kachin fighters ride in a pickup truck to the mountain outpost of Jan Mai Kawng. The KIA wrested control of the territory from Myanmar's armed forces.
An extended gallery of these photos can be found at Creative Time Reports.