Tuesday, June 2, 2009

KIO deadline for people's suggestion on armed wing

Written by KNG

One of Burma's main ethnic ceasefire groups the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has fixed June 30 as the deadline to garner suggestions from Kachins in Burma and abroad on the contentious issue of transforming its armed wing --- the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said KIO sources. The Burmese military junta has proposed that the armed wing be changed into a battalion of a border security force under it.

The deadline to receive letters was announced on May 30 in the KIO and KIA leaders-led Kachin public meeting in Laiza HQ or border business centre on the Sino-Burma border in Burma's northern Kachin State, said residents.

At the meeting, people were given a run down about the ruling junta's proposal to transform the KIA as a "Border Security Force" battalion in two recent meetings between KIO leaders and the junta's military officials in the Kachin State's capital Myitkyina on April 28 and May 21, said participants.

The situation was explained by top KIO leaders --- Vice-president No. 1 Lt-Gen Gauri Zau Seng, Vice-president No. 2 Dr. Manam Tu Ja and General Secretary Dr. Lahkyen La Ja, according to participants.

Asking questions to KIO leaders at the meeting regarding transforming KIA was not allowed. However letters of suggestion and comments on the proposed transformation from individuals and organizations were sought by the end of June, added participants.

Maj-Gen Gunhtang Gam Shawng, Chief of Staff of KIA, who also attended the meeting, said "The armed struggle has come about because the political problems between the KIO and the junta could not be solved by political means."

He also rejected the transformation of the KIA, "The issue of changing KIA will be the last in the agenda after all the problems have been solved between the KIO and the junta. The army (KIA) issue is placed at the edge or the tip and the political problems must be resolved first."

The junta's proposal states KIA will have to transform to a battalion of the Border Security Force with around 300 soldiers including 30 personnel from the Burmese Army. KIA military personnel of ages ranging from 18 to 50 will be accepted in the new Border Security Force. And all those over 50 years old must retire. Compensation like government pension would be considered for them, said KIO officials.

According to KIO leaders, the junta has asked them to collect lists of KIA personnel of ages ranging from 18 to 50 and those over 50 in August and September. The lists would have to be submitted to the junta.

KIO leaders met the junta's military officials twice in Myitkyina. However they did not come up with any definite answer on whether they will accept the junta's proposal on KIA or not, said KIO leaders.

The junta is also pressurizing other ethnic ceasefire groups in the country to convert their armed units to border security forces.

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