Mon 31 Oct 2005
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
A new armed opposition group in Kachin State has created internal and external divisions within the region as the currently unnamed fledgling organization attempts to deal with Rangoon.
According to sources in the region, Rangoon has offered guarantees of security in exchange for assurance that the new group would remain unaffiliated with other ceasefire groups in Kachin State, in which case they would be granted semi-autonomous rule and relocation to an independent territory.
Col Lasang Awng Wa, leader of the new splinter group, confirmed to The Irrawaddy by phone that the two sides have discussed these and other issues since August, adding that the group has surveyed proposed territory offered by the junta and approved of it.
The proposed land, according to Lasang Awng Wa, stretches from the town of Ja Htu Pa, near Myitkyina, east to the Irrawaddy River. The area includes some ten other villages. He added that the group will submit a final report of the survey and propose a relocation date following confirmation from Rangoon.
Despite Lasang Awng Wa’s efforts, some within the group remain divided about breaking away from other opposition groups in the region. â€œ[They are] discussing these issues with other commanders, but not with me,â€ said N’Hkum Doi La, a senior official in the new group and former vice general secretary of the Kachin Solidarity Council. He added that other senior leaders would find such a move to independent territory difficult to accept.
N’Hkum Doi La also suggested that the decision to relocate would isolate the group and threaten its ability to remain independent, as they would ultimately fall under the control of the Burmese military’s Light Infantry Battalion-58 and could eventually be pressured to disarm.
Lasang Awng Wa insists, however, that the splinter group will not surrender its weapons and will not adopt a new name-preferring to identify itself merely as a Kachin splinter group. According to the group’s leader, the decision to relocate aims at increasing community development in the region. He added that individual members are free to decide whether to join the relocation or remain where they are.
Meanwhile, critics of the move say that Burma’s northern commander, Maj-Gen Ohn Myint, is engaging in an intentional campaign to divide opposition groups in the region. It is also widely believed that Burmese troops played a role in the short-lived September 14 coup that ousted New Democratic Army-Kachin Chairman Zahkung Ting Ying from power.