Myanmar: A Fragile Peace


Tim Patterson, for the Pulitzer Center,

photos by Ryan Libre

On a blustery afternoon last December, senior officers in the Kachin Independence Army gathered for lunch in the Himalayan foothills of northern Myanmar, just a stone's throw from the Chinese border, at a wartime military base called Pajau.

Lunch was a classy affair, served outside on a picnic table next to the liaison office. The officers ate and drank with the mountain sun on their faces. They were in their 50s and 60s, and had fought the Burmese military in these mountains since their teenage years.

Ever since a ceasefire agreement was signed in 1994, there has been peace in Kachin land. On this December day, the officers attended a graduation ceremony for Kachin army clerks, followed by lunch in the sun with two American journalists.

The food was rich and fatty, and attentive young soldiers stood by with Merlot and Johnny Walker Black. The officers leaned back in their chairs, loosened their belts and soaked it all in.

Zeng Haw, a 61-year-old colonel wearing a U.S. Army jacket with BATMAN on the name badge, commented happily on the scene...