Ba Kaung Friday, June 17, 2011
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has been at various points of engagement with the Burmese army since 1961 when the Kachins first demanded independence. Later, it called for Kachin autonomy within a federal system—another aspiration which was never fulfilled. In 1994, it reached a ceasefire agreement with the ruling military leaders, this time with a call for no more than development in their region.
Since then, the mountainous terrain of Kachin State has seen much development—the development of Chinese mega-project investments which have been introduced with the backing of the Naypyidaw government. These projects, which right groups say will extract an enormous social and environmental price from the region, have generated much animosity in KIA circles and among the Kachin public. KIA officials said they were never consulted about these projects, but have instead experienced Burmese military encroachment into their area.
After the KIA rejected last year the government’s order to transform into a border guard force under the central command of the Burmese army, a tension began building. Nerves finally snapped on June 9 when fierce and bloody fighting broke out between the KIA and Burmese government forces.
Unlike previous conflicts with Burmese troops, KIA officials have now got to consider the China factor. The latest military offensive has an objective of creating a safeguard for China’s dam projects in their region. But they have also called on Beijing to mediate in the conflict. In addition, the KIA continues to call for a genuine federal union.
February 1947—Kachin leaders signed the Panglong Agreement with the Burmese government, which laid the foundation for the creation of a fully autonomous Kachin State.
February 1949—Naw Seng, a Kachin military officer in the Burmese army, defected to the Karen rebels along with his battalion. He then led the first Kachin rebel army in the fight for Kachin independence.
February 1961—Parliament under then Burmese Prime Minister U Nu declared Buddhism as the state religion, infuriating the mostly Christian Kachin population.
February 1961—A group of educated young Kachin men founded the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and pledged to fight for a free Kachin republic. Intense fighting with the Burmese army ensued.
August 1963—Burmese Gen Ne Win, who came to power after staging a military coup, held peace talks with ethnic armed forces, including the Kachin. However, negotiations broke down after the ethnic representatives rejected Ne Win’s demands, which included a condition that their armed forces must be concentrated in designated zones and their activities must be disclosed to his regime.
October 1980—Brang Seng, the chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the KIA’s political wing, went to Rangoon and met with Ne Win for peace talks. He asked the Burmese government for Kachin State autonomy with self determination.
December 1980—The Burmese government rejected the KIO’s demand for the inclusion of autonomous rights in the Constitution, saying the demands had not been accepted “by a vote of the people.” Peace efforts broke down and fighting resumed.
July 1993—KIO delegates negotiated with Burmese military leaders over a ceasefire in KIA-controlled areas in Kachin State and Shan State. The KIO’s major demand was regional development.
February 1994—The KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling military regime of the State Law and Order Restoration Council.
September 2010—The KIO formally rejected the Burmese government’s plan to accept the Border Guard Force (BGF) plan which would subjugate the KIA under Burmese military command. The KIO called for the emergence of a genuine federal state. Naypyidaw subsequently forced the closure of KIA liaison offices in Kachin State.
September 2010—Burma’s Election Commission rejected the registration of three Kachin political parties from running in the country’s first national elections in 20 years, saying the party leaders were linked with the KIA.
May 2011—The KIO sent a letter to the Chinese government to withdraw its investment from a massive hydropower dam project in Kachin State, warning that local resentment against this project could spark a civil war.
June 9, 2011—Deadly fighting between the KIA and the Burmese army broke out near a hydropower dam project, bringing this strategic region neighboring China to the verge of a civil war.