Even as the Myanmarese government initiates political reforms in much of the country, it has intensified an ethnic civil war here in the resource-rich hills of northern Myanmar, a conflict that at once threatens its warming trend with the United States and could alienate Chinese officials concerned about stability on the border.
This month hundreds of mortar rounds fired by the Myan­marese military landed within miles of this town near the mountainous Chinese border.
International human rights groups and soldiers and officials of the Kachin ethnic group say that Myanmarese soldiers have burned and looted homes, planted mines, forcibly recruited villagers as porters and guides, and raped, tortured and executed civilians.
Several thousand villagers have fled to China.
Tens of thousands more who have been displaced could follow if the Myanmarese Army continues its offensive, local relief workers say.
The fighting has raised questions about the limits of the reform agenda pushed by President Thein Sein, who has led the opening to the West. Some analysts in Myanmar say Thein Sein has been unable or unwilling to control the generals pressing the war.
Right on the Chinese border, Kachin State is rich in jade, gold and timber, and has rivers that are being exploited by Chinese hydropower projects. Part of the state has long been controlled by the Kachin Independence Army and its political wing, which levies taxes on all commerce.
Both the US and China would like to see the war resolved: the Chinese mostly to ensure stability on the border and access to resources and important power projects.
Some Chinese officials and executives welcome Myanma­rese military control of the resource-rich areas, preferring to cut deals with the Myanma­rese rather than the Kachin, foreign analysts say.
Some Kachin commanders say one factor that rekindled the war last June after a 17-year cease-fire may have been a desire by the Myanmarese military to widen its control of the areas with Chinese energy projects.
The New York Times