Kachin Independence Army Celebrates Anniversary
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Saturday, January 18, 2020
Burma

Kachin Independence Army Celebrates Anniversary


By MIN LWIN Wednesday, February 4, 2009


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The 48th anniversary of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) will be celebrated on Thursday by its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), in Laiza on the Sino-Burmese border in Burma’s eastern Kachin State.

The KIA was founded on February 5, 1961, by three brothers, Zau Seng, Zau Tu and Zau Dan, shortly after Burma’s first prime minister, U Nu, ordained Buddhism as the state religion.

Two days later, Zau Tu and eight young Kachin attacked the government treasury in Lashio and made off with 90,000 kyat, which financed armed operations across northern Shan State and Kachin State.

The KIA launched effective actions against government forces in Kachin State throughout the early 1960s until a ceasefire was signed in 1994.

The ceasefire still holds, according to KIO Vice Chairman Dr Tu Ja. Dialogue was occurring “in a peaceful manner” between the KIO and the military government, he told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Two major splits occurred within the KIO in 1969 and 1990, leading to the formation of the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK), led by Zahkung Tingying, and the Kachin Defense Army (KDA), led by Mahtu Naw.

The KIA’s Col James Lun Dau said some members, such as Commander Zahkung Tingying from KIA’s 101 battalion, had sought the assistance of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB).

Members of the KIO came from Jinghpaw, Rawang, Lisu, Zaiwa, Lawngwaw and Lachyit ethnic groups, but experts say only the Jinghpaw hold any power in the organization.

“The 1969 split was not racist,” James Lun Dau said. “It was just politics. Later they sought refuge under the CPB’s military umbrella.”

The NDA-K, based in Pang Wa, was founded by former KIA Commander Zahkung Tingying and Layawk Zelum. The NDA-K was the first Kachin group to sign a ceasefire agreement with the military government in 1989, shortly after the collapse of the CPB.

The KDA was founded in 1990 by Mahtu Naw, commander of the KIA’s 4th brigade, based in Northern Shan State. After the breakaway from the KIA, the KDA signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling military government and defected to Rangoon in 1990.

After 14 years, the KIA rebelled against the Rangoon government. In 1975, the KIO’s top leaders— Zau Seng, Zau Tu and Pung Shwe Zau Seng—were assassinated at the Thai-Burma border. Brang Seng, who negotiated the ceasefire agreement in 1994, took over as KIO chairman and appointed Zaung Hkra as KIO secretary.

The KIO entered into talks with the government of Gen Ne Win’s government in 1963 and 1980, but nothing materialized. On February 24, 1994, the KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).

KIO Chairman Zau Mai was ousted in February 2001 by a reformist faction within the party, in a coup at the KIO headquarters in Laiza. Since then, Lamung Tu Jai has led the KIO.

KIO leaders are often accused of treating the Kachin people no differently from the regime.

“The KIO hasn’t achieved autonomy or independence for the Kachin State and that’s depriving the Kachin people of hope,” said Aung Wah, chairman of the Kachin Development Network Group.

Ethnic sources in Kachin State also accuse the KIO of collecting taxes at border crossings with China and engaging in various business deals, including granting logging, mining and gambling concessions to local and Chinese investors throughout Kachin State.

“If they continue this way, we’ll never get what we want,” said Naw La, of the All Kachin Students and Youth Union.

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