Don’t Tread on the KIA
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FEATURE

Don’t Tread on the KIA


By BA KAUNG Friday, July 22, 2011


KIA representatives during a peace talk. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)
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LAIZA, Kachin State – “When we were young, we stepped on jade stones when we walked, found gold nuggets when we panned the rivers and saw tall teak trees when we passed by the forests,” said the Rev Lazum Tuja, a middle-aged ethnic Kachin and Christian priest, in a March sermon.

“But now, all of this is gone from Kachin State, mostly to China,” he told his congregation. “Since we are being looted of all our possessions, this is the dark age of the Kachin people.”

Lazum Tuja’s emotional sermon reflected the frustrations of his flock in the resource-rich Kachin State of northern Burma. Over the past two decades, the Kachin people have seen the depletion of their natural resources due to the growth of massive development projects conducted by Chinese companies with the support of the Burmese government. They have also experienced the consequent displacement of large numbers of local people and negative environmental impact on their communities.

Most of this has occurred since 1994, when the Burmese army signed a ceasefire agreement with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the second strongest ethnic armed group in Burma with an estimated 4,000 troops. The KIA has been engaged in an armed struggle for Kachin autonomy since 1961.

During the ceasefire, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, put its emphasis on infrastructure development in Kachin State and temporarily set aside its aspirations for autonomy at the request of the former military regime, which argued that political issues could be resolved once the new “civilian” government was in place.

On the surface, the ceasefire brought relative peace to a region previously scourged first by fighting between the Allied forces and the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, and later between the Burmese army and the Kachin rebels, who are renowned in Burma for their fighting skills.

But it was peace without a meaningful political solution, and so the Kachin people were in a powerless position when the Burmese government began forcing them to relocate en masse without any proper compensation—leaving behind their livelihoods, culture and ancestral homes—to make way for Chinese state-owned companies such as China Power Investment to build massive hydropower dams across Kachin State. To make matters worse, much of the electricity generated from these dams will not be for the consumption of the Kachin people, but for export to neighboring China, and the revenues from the projects will to go into Naypyidaw’s coffers.

As a result, there has been widespread local resentment against the Chinese-led dam projects in Kachin State, the most prominent being the Myitsone Dam—one of the largest hydropower dam projects in the world which is currently under construction at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River. To add fuel to the fire, there has was has been escalating tension between the Burmese army and the KIA since 2009, when Naypyidaw issued its order for the KIA to join the government’s Border Guard Force (BGF).

The BGF plan was intended to place ethnic militias like the KIA and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the country’s strongest ethnic armed group, under the central command of the Burmese army. The Burmese government set a number of deadlines for the KIA and UWSA to accept the BGF, but each repeatedly rejected the plan.

In Kachin State, the expiration of the BGF deadlines loomed large not only on the military front, but also on the political front. Kachin political parties were banned from joining the election on grounds that their leaders were linked with the KIA, whereas the ethnic political representatives from Shan, Mon and Arakan States were allowed to participate and won seats in the new Parliament.

When the election brought forth a “civilian” government led by former military generals, it was clear to the Kachin leaders that the new government would not make the political compromises that the former junta chiefs had led them to expect. In addition, the mostly Christian Kachin population were saddled with a Buddhist Kachin chief minister in their state, a man who represents the government-backed United Solidarity Development Party that controls Parliament.

Soon after the election, the Burmese government ratcheted-up the pressure on the KIA, forcing it to shut down its liaison offices in urban areas in Kachin State and then ordering the withdrawal of KIA troops from the area near the hydropower plant that Chinese interests are constructing on the Tapaing River, a tributary of the Irrawaddy, in Bhamo District bordering China’s Yunnan Province. KIA officials were indignant about being ordered to leave areas where they have been active for decades, and took it as a sign that the Burmese army was poised to launch an all-out offensive against its troops.



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Saw Dennis Wrote:
25/07/2011
The KIO/KIA has the best fighting people in its armed forces. It will not fail to give a good lesson to U Thein Sein and his army which is acting more like a gang of thugs.

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
25/07/2011
So Kachins were DUPED ALL ALONG - ceasefire - since day one by Than Shwe and his lot!
Now their possessions are ROBBED and their women RAPED by Than Shwe's lot I see.
And the CHINESE are the SOLE BENEFICIARIES in this case as well.
The CHINESE are the ROOT CAUSE of all WOES not only in Kachin State but also in Burma as well lest Kachins forget.
Hence, the Kachins should DESTROY ALL CHINESE DAMS and their INTERESTS in Kachin Lands for a start in case Thein Sein's hordes head for LAIZA I say.
Yes, STAY ALIVE and FIGHT ANOTHER DAY should be the BEST BET for Kachins until VICTORY DAY.
And don't worry you guys will get the LAST LAUGH at the end of the day.

Denys Goldthorpe Wrote:
25/07/2011
Buddhist Muslim or Christian, the ceasefire agreement that this illegal regime signed with the KIA and any other so called ceasefire agreements are worthless, the paper their printed on is worth more.

Alen Tsa Doi Wrote:
24/07/2011
The war we should fight must be the war that brings forth victory to all peace loving, justice and freedom hunger people of Burma, but not only for one party or two.

someone in Laiza Wrote:
24/07/2011
well done, man !

ludu Wrote:
23/07/2011
In main cities of Burma, we have always heard about "Bo Bwa Paing Myay"(ancestral land). In Kachin, they even can't say ancestral jades, teaks, rivers, etc..

tocharian Wrote:
23/07/2011
I predict that there will be PLA troops stationed in Burma within the next decade. Of course, they will be there just to "protect" the Chinese workers, businessmen and their "investments"!

All of Burma, not just the Kachin State is becoming a takeaway kitchen for China (and for people like Steven Law) with no left-overs for the "natives". Why should the Chinese care about Tibetans, Uighurs, Kachins, Shans, Burmese, Laotians, ... and other "barbarians" living in their backyard. It is the "heavenly mandate" of the Han Chinese to exploit natural resources in the neighbourhood, including the South China Seas. It's a no-brainer for Peking.

Myutsaw Wrote:
23/07/2011
BGF means no way to participate the country and people development activity on behalf of Kachin people and its regional development rather to listen military leaders from the Burmans Hierarchies. No way....the time will judge, Burmese does four cuts and Kachins will two cuts (bridge and your throats).

kerry Wrote:
23/07/2011
Kachin land is not China's. Kachin resources do not belong to the sham government, or the Naypyidaw nightmare. Burma belongs to the people of Burma.

Burma is not a fire sale. It is not a slave nation. It is a nation of real people, who deserve a voice in their own destiny.

Burma needs REAL peaceful liberation, not the Chinese fake version, not Beijing masters, nor 'Buddhist' pretenders, not lip-service to democracy while trading in blood dollars in Singapore, and not the shameful sham that exists today.

Kachin Highlander Wrote:
23/07/2011
In a way, Thanks to Burmese military. We, Kachins, have achieved a "unity" that has never seen in this generation because of your bone-chilling accounts of the madness of killing, raping, and torturing to our Kachin people. Kachin will fight on! You may occupy Laiza and other Kachin Army's posts, but the fight will continue in the whole Kachinland and in the hearts of Kachin people. We believe the truth and justice will prevail in the end!!

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