Wednesday, June 17, 2009

KIO in preparation mode, refurbishing armed wing

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The ethnic Kachin resistance group – Kachin Independence Organisation is refurbishing its military in what appears to be preparation for an impending war with the Burmese Army.

Sources on the Sino-Burma border area said, the KIO off late has been re-grouping the members of its armed wing - the Kachin Independence Army and is recruiting new members.

Awng Wa, Chairman of the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) working in Kachin state told Mizzima that he has witnessed KIA cadres retreating into their forest camps and beefing up security around their areas of control.

He said, the KIA is also calling back its old members and recruiting new cadres and is vigorously providing trainings to younger batches.

The KIO’s reported preparation comes after the ruling junta in late April proposed to the KIO along with other several ceasefire groups to transform their armies into a ‘Border Guard’ force under the junta’s administration and control.

While a few ethnic rebel groups like the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Kokang group of Myanmar National Democratic Allied Army (MNDAA) have rejected the proposal, the KIO has not come up with an official response to the proposal.

Aung Wa, who is also closely watching the KIO and its relationship with the junta, said, “the KIO does not seem to like the proposal of transforming its army and they have already decided to refuse. So, they may be preparing for defence in case of possible future pressure.”

Quoting inner sources of the KIO, Aung Wa said, the KIO has decided to reject the junta’s proposal officially in the coming meeting.

“They [junta and KIO] are likely to meet before the end of this month for further discussions on the issue,” he added.

In late April, the junta proposed to several ceasefire groups to transform their armies into a border guard force, which will have 326 soldiers including 30 Burmese soldiers in each battalion and will be controlled by the junta.

The Sino-Burma border based KIO, which has a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese junta since 1994, has been pressurized by the military junta to transform its army.

A KIO member, who requested not to be named, said the group, since last year, has been preparing for military attacks by the Burmese Army, as they cannot agree to the junta’s proposal.

But a Sino-Burma border based political analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw said, it is unlikely that the junta will launch any kind of military offensive against the rebel groups before the 2010 general election.

“They [junta] don’t want anything to affect their planned general election. So, they will not attack before it is concluded,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

But he said, over the last two months, he has noticed the KIO’s preparation and recruitment of new soldiers but there are no signs to indicate there will be any conflict in the near future.

“It is possible that the junta will launch military operation after 2010 but it is unlikely before that,” he added.

“If there is war, the first thing is that civilians will suffer from the effects of the conflict, so, no one wants fighting,” Awng Wa said.

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