A Fragile Peace
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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A Fragile Peace


By YENI FEBRUARY, 2010 - VOLUME 18 NO.2


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The Kachin negotiate with the regime on the border guard force issue, while recruiting and training more soldiers

At the traditional Manau dance this year—held in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma’s northern Kachin State—Kachin soldiers were not allowed to dance in military uniforms. Earlier, the Burmese regime sent three members of the notorious Press Scrutiny and Registration Division to censor stories in the Kachin language newspaper that published articles about the festival, held annually on Kachin State Day, Jan. 10.

To show their unhappiness, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which signed a cease-fire agreement with the junta in 1994, sent only 200 soldiers to the festival. Last year, about 2,000 KIA personnel joined the festivities.

 
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Within the KIA, which now has 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers in five brigades and one infantry division, there is growing suspicion and distrust of the Burma regime. The Kachin, who fought against Burma’s central government for near 40 years, have already rejected the regime’s demand to transform the KIA into a border guard force. 

Instead, the KIA is recruiting and training more soldiers and preparing for resumed hostilities with the Burmese army. Additionally, it formed a military alliance with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the largest ethnic army with 20,000 soldiers, and the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), aka the Mongla group, with an army of about 3,000 soldiers.  

Five Kachin leaders, including Dr. Tuja, the vice chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), its political wing, have resigned to focus on building up the Kachin State Progressive Party, jointly founded in March 2009 with three Kachin cease-fire groups and the Kachin National Consultative Assembly, the largest political umbrella organization, to contest the junta’s general election this year. “The Kachin must have a political party,” said a Kachin leader. “If not, they will lose their identity.”

Engaging in electoral politics is part of the Kachin strategy to prepare for its political and military future. In the meantime, the KIO/KIA control their autonomous zones, building hospitals, teacher training colleges and Christian churches in both Kachin State and northern Shan State, in the remote northern reaches of the country.
 
Simultaneously, the military government is busy selling off the natural resources of Kachin State to foreign investors who snap up rights to mining, logging, farming and hydro power dam projects. Chinese laborers are used for much of the work, the regime takes most of the wealth and the Kachin people get the leftovers. Still—at least for now—the land of the Kachin, also known as “Jade Land,” retains a fragile peace.  

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