The war on the Kachin Independence Organization / Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) by the Burmese army is fundamentally a fratricide for the sake of protecting foreign business interests, according to a KIO high official who asked not to be named.
“The (hydropower) project was launched in the area under our control and when it was completed Gen Thein Sein, who was prime minister at that time, presided over at the opening ceremony,” he said. “The trouble began only when the Burma Army’s Mongmit operations command attacked us (on 9 June 2011).”
Since then, “guest units” (those outside Kachin State) have been brought in to dislodge the KIA from the area. “The first requirement for a return to status quo therefore is to withdraw these guest units back to their home bases,” he said.
The Northern Region Command that oversees security in Kachin State has 46 infantry and light infantry battalions, according to the list compiled by Network for Democracy and Development (NDD). But there are now more than 130 battalions, according to reports from the border.
To further prove his point, the official drew attention to the fact that villagers who returned to their homes following President Thein Sein’s September order suspending the controversial Myitsone dam project on the Irrawaddy triangle were being detained.
The two sides have met both state level and union level, formal and informal, to break the deadlock but the situation continues to worsen.
The reason, according to him, is that the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces) is both constitutionally and actually “above the government”.
- Kachin State Minister for Border and Security Affairs Col Than Aung reports directly to the Northern Region Command and not to the Kachin State chief minister
- Naypyitaw chief negotiator U Aung Thaung was quoted as saying the Tatmadaw’s commander-in-chief is above the defense minister in order of precedence
“He even conceded that the NDSC (National Defense and Security Council) is higher than the union government,” the official said.
- Last, but not least, the Tatmadaw took an independent decision to attack the KIA
“For these reasons, for a negotiation to succeed, participation of Tatmadaw representatives empowered to make decisions is a must,” he said.
Thus far, Naypyitaw has signed ceasefire agreements with 12 groups, 7 of which were negotiated by U Aung Thaung:
- United Wa State Army (UWSA)
- National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA)
- Democratic Kachin Buddhist Army (DKBA)
- Shan State Progress Party / Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA)
- Karen Peace Council (KPC)
- Arakan Liberation Party (ALP)
- National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) Khaplang faction
The remaining 5 were negotiated by U Aung Min:
- Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS / SSA)
- Chin National Front (CNF)
- Karen National Union (KNU)
- New Mon State Party (NMSP)
- Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)
Between 1989-1995, Rangoon (the former capital) had entered into ceasefire agreements with several groups, but the KIO/KIA was the only one that had inked its agreement. “It may not even be necessary to sign another agreement,” he said. “We only need to reaffirm the one signed in 1994.”
Reuters reported on 29 April, due to the failure to make a breakthrough in the negotiations with the KIO, Naypyitaw is in the process of overhauling its negotiating teams.