The “proud” people of Kachin continue to express their determination to defend their land, as Sky News uncovers evidence another ethnic group is being targeted in Myanmar.
Here, producer and cameraman Neville Lazarus offers exclusive insight into the hard-to-access northern state and those fighting to defend it.
It took some time to get all the arrangements worked out on this story. As a producer one does have to have patience – and heaps of it.
Getting into the Kachin state now is pretty difficult. The Burmese military is attacking from all sides. They have also been able to stop access, not only to journalists, but even local and international aid agencies.
Since the beginning of this year, the Burmese military has upped its bombing campaign in different parts of Kachin state.
They want the Kachin Independent Organisation (KIO) to sign a peace treaty and subsequently disband the Kachin Independent Army (KIA).
Multiple sources told us how villages were being bombed and burnt, very similar to the Rohingya community in Rakhine state.
The Kachin people were fleeing and hiding in the jungles. They said the government of Myanmar have refused to give aid agencies access to them.
After months of negotiations by the church, some aid finally reached the hundreds of displaced.
They have also been prevented from travelling to areas that are under the KIO and are now in camps guarded by the Myanmar military.
We began negotiations with our sources and it took time for both us and the Kachin organisers to trust each other. They did background checks on Sky, Alex Crawford and I, while we did ours.
The difficulty for us was getting access to Kachin state. The Burmese military had cut this northern sliver of land, which borders China in the North and India in the West.
Our contacts would take us in using a network of backdoor routes and draw up another plan for our way out of Myanmar.
It had to be done in absolute secrecy as the Myanmar government does not want journalists in this part of the country and does their utmost to keep reporters away.
This was one of the most difficult parts of the trip.
After many hours of driving, including changing vehicles and drivers, we finally reached Laiza, the de-facto capital of Kachin state and the location of headquarters of the KIO and the KIA.
There was a palpable sense of insecurity in this small town since the Burmese military has shelled its population in the past.
Moreover, the Kachin army has lost some strategic mountain tops from where Burmese guns overlook the town. People we spoke to feel scared and are ready to leave town if the conflict starts there.
Kachin soldiers could be seen patrolling everywhere. On motorbikes with their AK’s slung over the shoulders, on the back of 4x4s. Motorbikes seem to be the best mode of transport in this mountainous terrain.
On one of our foot patrols, which lasted seven hours up and down mountains, I was exhausted filming these young men who hardly broke into a sweat. I come from Delhi where the temperature is 45C (113F) right now and I was sweating buckets.
One of our cameras stopped functioning – probably because of the moisture. As a cameraman you will be very worried if the most important part of your kit stops working.
The soldiers then set up their camp – a night shelter made out of bamboo and leaves. The makeshift kitchens were made and dinner cooked.
The endurance test came later that night when we went on a night patrol. We climbed almost vertically up a mountain in total darkness. I slipped and fell many times while filming.
The Kachins are proud people. They are determined to defend their land, culture and religion until the last man.
From – SkyNews