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March 06 , 2008

The Kachin: Lords of Burma's Northern Frontier


Remarkable for their military prowess, their receptivity to Christianity, and their intricate all-embracing kinship network, the Kachins are a hardy mountain people living in the remote hills of northern Burma (Myanmar), and on the peripheries of China and India.

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During the Second World War they strongly sided with the Allies in defending Burma against the imperialist designs of the Japanese military, earning themselves sobriquets such as “amiable assassins” and “Gurkhas of Southeast Asia”. After Burma's independence in 1948, the Kachins were given their own state, but in the early 1960s they went to war again, this time fighting for autonomy for their homeland.

For half a century, funded largely by the world-renowned jade trade they control, they maintained their armed insurgency, playing a key role in Burma's internecine struggles. In 1994 the Kachins and the Burmese government signed a cease-fire agreement, which they hoped would mark the start of an era of peace. However, in June 2011 government forces broke the truce and war flared anew in the Kachin hills.

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