Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kachin Reject Border Guard Force Second Time

The Irrawaddy News

One of biggest ethnic ceasefire groups, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) again rejected the military junta’s border guard force plan and called for autonomy in Kachin State, according to a KIO report.

The meeting between the KIO and Burmese military officials led by Maj-Gen Soe Win, the commander of the Northern Regional Command and head of the transformation committee of the border guard force for the Northern Regional Command, took place in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State and the headquarters of the regional command, on July 8.

Representatives of the KIO told the Burmese that the KIO wanted to keep its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), under its current status and rejected having Burmese military commanders in its ethnic armed forces.

It is estimated that the KIA now has 4,000 to 5,000 men forming five brigades and one infantry division. KIA troops are stationed in both Kachin State and northern Shan State.

The KIO said that it wanted KIA troops to form a Kachin Regional Guard Force but not a border guard force in the future.

Apart from the border guard force issue, the KIO also called for autonomous power for the KIO in Kachin State by demanding “direct involvement” in the state’s executive, legislative and judicial powers after the 2010 election.

The KIO also rejected a junta proposal for the organization to become a political party for the 2010 elections.

The KIO said it is has been the sole Kachin people’s organization representing the Kachin for five decades, and it would difficult and confusing for Kachin people if the KIO were suddenly transformed into a political party for the election.

The KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military in 1994.

The July 8 meeting was the second attempt by the Burmese military to persuade the KIO to accept the border guard force plan.

At the end of April, Burmese army officials met with leaders of ethnic ceasefire groups, including the KIO, and explained the junta’s blueprint for transforming the armed forces of ethnic ceasefire groups into border guard forces ahead of the 2010 elections.

The KIO and other ceasefire groups voiced their disagreement with the plan at that time.

In June, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, who is secretary of the junta’s Border Guard Force Transformation Committee, visited controlled areas of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) or the Kokang Army, and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) to convince them of the border guard force plan.

The northern Shan Sate based UWSA, which is the biggest ceasefire group in Burma, the MNDAA and the NDAA rejected the plan a second time.

Analysts say the plan is to incorporate armed ethnic ceasefire troops into the Tatmadaw (Burma’s armed forces) with the aim of weakening ethnic armed groups in the future.

Under the plan, one border guard battalion would have 326 troops including 18 officers. There would be three commanders with the rank of major. Each battalion would have two majors drawn from ceasefire groups and one major drawn from the Tatmadaw in charge of administration.

Each battalion would have a general staff officer and quartermaster with the rank of captain drawn from the Tatmadaw. Company commanders in each battalion would be drawn from ceasefire groups.

Twenty-seven soldiers in other ranks, such as company sergeant majors, sergeant clerks, nurses, etc., would be drawn from Tatmadaw forces.

The deadline for the ceasefire groups to accept the plan was on June 30.

Related article: The Path of Pen or Sword?

Multimedia show from The Irrawaddy published on 4 February 2009.

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