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THE CONFLICT IN KACHIN STATE - TIME TO REVISE THE COSTS OF WAR? (English)

THE CONFLICT IN KACHIN STATE - TIME TO REVISE THE COSTS OF WAR? (English)

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Published by Jutta Pflueg
February 2012 Burma Centre for Ethnic Studies (Briefing Paper No. 2) "...Since 9 June 2011, Kachin State has seen open warfare between the Kachin Independence Army and the Tatmadaw (Burma Army). The Kachin Independence Organisation signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime in 1994 and since then had lived in relative peace up until 2008 and the creation of a new constitution. This constitution enshrines the power of the military and demands that all armed forces, including those under ceasefire agreements, relinquish control to the head of the Burma Army.
February 2012 Burma Centre for Ethnic Studies (Briefing Paper No. 2) "...Since 9 June 2011, Kachin State has seen open warfare between the Kachin Independence Army and the Tatmadaw (Burma Army). The Kachin Independence Organisation signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime in 1994 and since then had lived in relative peace up until 2008 and the creation of a new constitution. This constitution enshrines the power of the military and demands that all armed forces, including those under ceasefire agreements, relinquish control to the head of the Burma Army.

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Published by: Jutta Pflueg on Feb 09, 2012
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02/12/2012

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Editor: Lian H. Sakhong | Author: Paul Keenan
Briefing Paper No. 2
February 2012
 T
HE
C
ONFLICT IN
K
ACHIN
S
TATE
-
 
T
IME TO
R
EVISE THE
C
OSTS OF
W
AR
?
For earlier background on the Kachin conflict see ‘The Kachin’s Dilemma – Contest the election or return to guerrilla warfare’ EBO AnalysisPaper No.2/2010, May 2010
Since 9 June 2011, Kachin State has seen open warfare between the Kachin Independence Army and theTatmadaw (Burma Army). The Kachin Independence Organisation signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime in1994 and since then had lived in relative peace up until 2008 and the creation of a new constitution. Thisconstitution enshrines the power of the military and demands that all armed forces, including those underceasefire agreements, relinquish control to the head of the Burma Army.This, combined with economic exploitation by China in Kachin territory, especially the construction of the MyitsoneHydropower Dam, left the Kachin Independence Organisation with very little alternative but to return to armedresistance to prevent further abuses of its people and their territory’s natural resources. Despite this however, thepolitical situation since the beginning of hostilities has changed significantly.There is little doubt that one of the main reasons for the continuing offensive was the Burmese Government’sattempts to control all ethnic armed forces through its head of defence services. That said, however, the principlereason for both the KIO’s reaction to increased Burma Army deployment, the breakdown of the ceasefire, and theresumption of open warfare in Kachin areas, was also the previous Regime’s attempts to secure China’s lucrativeinvestment projects at the expense of ethnic rights and land. While the Myitsone Dam, and the Burma Army’ssecurity of it, appeared to be one of the main factors used by the KIO to resume hostilities, President Thein Seinannounced the suspension of the project on 30 September 2011 for the length of the government’s term. While anumber of critics have pointed out that the suspension does not mean an end to the project, it removed, at least inthe short term, one of the main reasons for continued fighting.In addition, the regime has dropped all calls for ethnic armed groups to become part of its Border Guard Forceprogram. Instead it has embarked on a number of peace talks and ceasefire agreements with both previouslyceasefire and non-ceasefire groups. The Klo Htoo Baw Battalion (formerly DKBA Brigade 5) signed a ceasefire withthe government on 3 November 2011, the Restoration Council Shan State/Shan State Army – South signed aninitial ceasefire agreement with a union level peace group on the 3 December 2011 this was followed by the ChinNational Front (CNF) on 6 January 2012, the Shan State Progress Party signed two peace agreements on 28 January2012, the Karen National Union on 12 January 2012 and the New Mon State Party on 1 February 2012 (see BurmaCentre Analysis Paper No1, January 2012).Email: info@eacebuildin.se
 
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Editor: Lian H. Sakhong | Author: Paul KeenanThese agreements provide a rare written understanding between the government and the ethnic groups. Previousregimes have for example refused to hold meeting in neighbouring countries, and yet most of the preliminarymeeting with ethnic groups have taken place in Thailand. In addition, written agreements, with the exception of the Kachin ceasefire agreement in 1994, have never been agreed to.While the KIO have had meetings with the Kachin State Peace Negotiating Committee, again outside of thecountry, this time in Ruili (Shweli) in China, there remains a great deal of apprehension on behalf of the KIOleadership despite the fact that its allies are continuing to acquiesce to government peace initiatives. PresidentThein Sein has identified three simultaneous principles necessary to achieve peace in the country:1.
 
Peace2.
 
Stability3.
 
DevelopmentAlthough a number of groups have already agreed to ceasefire agreements, the continuing conflict in Kachin State,and the KIO’s insistence on political dialogue prior to a ceasefire, threatens to derail any future hopes for peacethroughout the country.
T
HE
R
OLE OF THE
U
NITED
N
ATIONALITIES
F
EDERAL
C
OUNCIL
(UNFC)
Despite such overtures on behalf of the government, a number of obstacles remain to be dealt with. One of themain issues is that created by the formation of the UNFC in February 2011. At the beginning of November 2010shortly after the election, three ceasefire groups, the KIO, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the SSPP/SSA andthree non-ceasefire groups, the Karen National Union (KNU), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) andthe Chin National Front (CNF), announced the creation of an organising committee, the Committee for theEmergence of a Federal Union (CEFU), to consolidate a united front at a time when the ceasefire groups facedperceived imminent attacks by the Burma Army. At a conference held from the 12-16 February 2011, CEFUdeclared its dissolution and the formation of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). The UNFC, which wascomprised of 12 ethnic organisations
1
, stated that:The goal of the UNFC is to establish the future Federal Union (of Burma) and the Federal Union Army isformed for giving protection to the people of the country.
2
 Shortly after, wide-scale conflict occurred throughout areas controlled by the SSPP/SSA and a number of theirbases were lost to the Burma Army. Then in June the KIO ceasefire broke down and the conflict continues to thisday. The formation of the UNFC had occurred at a time of increasing uncertainty in relation to how the newBurmese Government would settle the ceasefire group issue. Consequently, the creation of a broad-based allianceenveloping both ceasefire and non-ceasefire groups was a reasonable move.The political leadership of the alliance originally fell on the KNU with KNLA Commander-in-Chief General Mutuannounced as Chairman and KIA commander Lt. Gen. Gauri Zau Seng as Vice Chairman No.1, KNPP’s Khun AbelTweed as Vice Chairman No.2 and the NMSP’s Nai Hongsa as General Secretary. The creation of the UNFC occurredwhile a number of other ethnic alliances still remained. The National Democratic Front, formed in 1976, stillcontained members of armed ethnic groups, the NCUB was still active, and the five-party military alliance was stillactive, the latter was the reason given by the SSA-S for not joining the UNFC.Despite the fact that Gen. Mutu was ostensibly chairman, the UNFC’s policies have been mainly driven by the KIOand the NMSP. The Central Executive Committee was reformed in May and it was announced Lt. Gen. N’ban La
 
3
 
Editor: Lian H. Sakhong | Author: Paul KeenanAwng of the KIA would take over as Chairman and Gen. Mutu would be commander of the Federal Union Army(FUA). Leadership changes were made once more at a meeting in November 2011, Gen. Mutu was replaced byMaj. Gen. Bee Htoo of the KNPP as C-in-C and Brig Gen Gun Maw of the KIO was appointed as Deputy#1. It wasannounced that the Federal Union Army had been formed at a meeting held on the 16-17 December 2011.According to its Circular #1 / 2011, the Federal Union Army’s aims and objectives are:
 
To defend the Union
 
To achieve peace
 
To restore democratic rights and fundamental rights of the people
 
To struggle for Equality and Right of self Determination
 
To oppose human rights violations and war crimes committed by some elements of the Burma Army
 
To serve as a rally point for Burma Army members who wish to stand by the people
 
To become a part of the armed forces of the future federal union
3
 The circular also designates the following as allies: Arakan Liberation Army (ALA), All Burma Student DemocraticFront (ABSDF), United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and the Shan StateArmy (SSA) ‘South’. The latter three have already made peace agreements with the Burmese government and thefuture role of the ABSDF, in light of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and the reregistration on the NLD, remainssomewhat vague. This would leave the Arakan Liberation Party which is largely responsible for the continuation of the NDF.While the Burmese government has resisted UNFC calls for dialogue with it, recent comments made by Khun Okkerof the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation suggest that this may change in the future.
4
However thesecomments, made late December 2011, occurred prior to the CNF’s agreement in January and those of the KNU andNMSP, and consequently may make such talks unnecessary.
T
HE
KIO
AND THE
N
EW
P
ARADIGM
 
The Kachin Independence Organisation continues to remain steadfast in its call for a political dialogue prior toceasefire despite most of its closest allies signing agreements with the Government on what they consider to bereasonable terms. In its 19 January 2012 three-stage proposal
5
the KIO outlined the following before it wouldagree to any ceasefire:1.
 
a) Both sides must agree to discuss further talksb) Both sides should be willing to engage in a political dialoguec) Both sides should release information about the talks to the peopled) Both sides should avoid criticism and untruthful accusationse) Both sides should agree military positions to avoid further conflictf) Both sides should release prisoners captured in the conflictg) Liaison offices should be set uph) The public should be informed2.
 
a) A Second Panglong Conference must be heldb) An agreement should be made at the conference to adopt the basic principles for the countryc) Destroyed Villages must be rebuilt and compensatedd) Further talks should be held

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