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‘We will not make any offer for a cease-fire’

 
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Mizzima reporter Ko Wild interviews Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) spokesman and Joint Secretary La Nan on the recent fighting between government and KIO troops in Kachin State.
 
Question: The KIO recently received a letter from the  Kachin State Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) secretary 2 and Kachin State MP Thein Zaw proposing a cease-fire.

Answer: Thein Zaw sent a letter to us saying that their Northern Command had issued its order to troops on the frontline to cease fire unless the KIO troops shot first. The KIO was advised to issue a similar order to its troops. Thein Zaw sent this letter in his capacity as a Myitkyina Township constituency MP.
 
In our return letter, we asked them to produce a guarantee from a responsible person in the military establishment to confirm the cease-fire order given to their troops. Thein Zaw’s letter just said that he had already informed the Northern Command commander and the commander had already issued cease-fire orders to the troops. But this doesn’t mean a military officer sent the letter. So we told them we would reconsider this issue when we receive a letter written by a military officer guaranteeing issuance of the cease-fire order. We received their letter on Sunday and replied on the same day by e-mail. We have received acknowledgment of the receipt of our letter from them.
 
Q: Did you send a letter to Naypyitaw or inform them by some other means?

A: We will not make any offer for a cease-fire. We replied to their letter only when we received it from the Kachin Nationality Consultative Council members who visited us.

Q: How many government troops are in Kachin State now?

A: There are total of about 30 local battalions. All are on full alert for combat readiness. Since the fighting started, more troops are being sent here from other provinces. It’s difficult to estimate the exact troop number. They used 11 battalions on June 11 when we fought them on that day, but they were not at full strength. Each battalion had a mere 40 to 60 troops, maximum 80.

Q: There are reports that the government troops were committing rape. Can you confirm this?

A: Yes, it really happens in our state. Sometimes the reason behind the flight of the refugees is the rape issue. The war refugees who flee to us are not just from conflict zones. The government troops are stationed in their villages, and they beat the men on suspicion of being KIO supporters. Then they rape girls and women, and they don’t even spare old women. When this news spreads to other villages, the people from nearby villages in government-controlled areas flee to our controlled area.

Q: Can you give an example of such rape cases being committed by government troops?

A: For instance, there is Kharun Mudan village in Lweje Township in our 3rd Brigade area. The village is Lisu. The government troops raped a girl and shot her dead in the presence of her parents. Her parents fled to China in fear of further persecution. We learned of this incident from people living in China. They could not identify the army unit of the perpetrators. We are trying hard to get this information in detail. Our women organizations are investigating this case.

Q: The government said it launched its offensive to stop you from harassing the Tapein hydropower project area.

A: The KIO troops have been stationed and deployed in this Tapein hydropower project area for 30 or 40 years and they understand the situation. First, they brought in Immigration Department officials to check on the influx of Chinese labour into this area. Then they brought in a police force to protect the Immigration officials. Then the military troops entered the area. This is how they expand into our area. But there were no problems between our troops and the Burmese army units.

We never kidnapped or threatened the Chinese labours and engineers. We have had friendly relations with Chinese officials along the border for many years. Not only now. The KIO is a dignified organization. The Chinese companies and Chinese officials are aware of our dignity and sincerity.

Q: Can us tell us more about the Chinese workers at the Lasa hydropower project?

A: This project is still underway. There are two tributaries, the Maykha and Malikha, upstream of Myitsone (the confluence of the Irrawaddy River). The project is located just below Sumprabum and upstream of Maylikha. It is in our 1st Brigade controlled area.

There were no government positions and outposts in this area before. The government troops entered the area when the Chinese engineers and workers came in for this project. We had an understanding with them. But the Chinese engineers and workers did some exploring and mining operations for some metals and minerals besides their main work on the hydropower project. There are gold deposits and other mineral and metal ores in the area. Then we expelled these Chinese mining units from the area.

Q: How many big hydropower projects are underway in Kachin State?

A: Among them, the Irrawaddy Myitsone project is the largest. As I said, there will be another in the Lasa area. There will be four to five similar projects on the Maykha River. All of the electricity generated by these hydropower projects will be sold to China and the local people will not receive any benefits from the projects. Chinese companies and Asia World Company are implementing the projects in collaboration.

Q: How do the Chinese workers enter these project areas? Do they cross KIO-controlled areas?

A: The Chinese who work upstream of Irrawaddy and Myitsone enter the project areas through Kanpaiti pass. The New Democratic Army-Kachin controlled this area in the past. The Chinese working on the Tapein project enter their project area through Yinjiang and Lwejie. They do not need to pass through our control area.

Q: How many KIO troops and officials have been captured or arrested by the government?

A: More than ten. They are detaining many more on suspicion of having contact with us. No one has been released yet. Then chief of Military Affairs Security (MAS) Major General Ye Myint arrested all of them after September 30, 2010. Now he has become the Mandalay Region chief minister, and he was responsible for the arrests.

One person who was arrested after June 9 was Lance Corporal Chein Yan, who was later brutally killed by them.

Q: The government has said that the Constitution could be amended in Parliament. Do you think this offers some hope for a change in the government’s methods?

A: In fact they made the Constitution rigid and non-amendable. Thirteen armed ethnic organizations that attended the constitution drafting convention submitted papers on this issue. The KIO was one of them. But the government did not listen to our ideas, and they didn’t make any compromise or accommodation to our demands and requests. So it’s impossible to accept their Constitution because it does not reflect any considerations of the ethnic populations’ needs. Amending this Constitution in Parliament is a mission impossible.

Q: How many refugees are there in KIO camps now?

A: More than 10,000 refugees are in our KIO-controlled area. They came from government-controlled areas. First, they fled to China when the war broke out. Then the Chinese officials cleverly urged and persuaded them to go back to their homes by saying that there was no more fighting in their villages. China has not yet built any refugee camps on their soil. The KIO provides assistance to the refugees in our camps as much as we can.



Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 June 2011 14:32 )  
The Kachin’s last stand
Since October this year, Burma has been in a state of civil war, with fighting between Burmese military and armed ethnic rebels. The ruling junta started a crackdown on these armed groups.

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