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Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Why Are They Fighting Again in Burma?Tim King Salem-News.com
An old story about human nature and a cycle that must be broken if this part of Asia is to ever exist in peace.
(SACRAMENTO, CA) - KIA... it is an ironic reference for a resistance front fighting the sophisticated, deadly army of the Myanmar government. As fighting renews, it seems important to review the details about the struggle in Burma between government forces, and the Kachin Independence Army. Violence erupted again in 2011 after a long standing cease fire, and now the Kachin rebels are under siege by aerial attack.
The final attack against the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka happened when that government violated a cease fire that was keeping people alive. That ended in a Genocide of 160,000 Tamil Sri Lankans, killed by their own country. Governments place segments of populations in political situations they can not tolerate and it leads to violent resistance and disaster.
It is an old story about human nature and a cycle that must be broken if this part of Asia is to ever exist in peace. The Kachin Independence Army battled Burma's military junta that dominated the country with an iron fist for decades. We know the junta was horrific; the government was considered a pariah state. The desires of the Kachin resistance seem reasonable, and they are multifold.
Since the U.S. condemned the government the KIA was born to fight, it seems reasonable to examine their perspective with fairness. The key component in the reemergence of violence is resistance to a dam project that will leave six villages underwater.
As we have discussed in past articles, Burma has remained closed for the modern age of business and resource development. It is a virgin to the calculating corporations that want to sink their teeth into a place that political leaders, with Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi at the front of the line, are ready to exploit for profit, rather than protect.
In August 2011, National Geographic published a haunting and revealing article, 'Land of Shadows' - that explains the significance of the project with regard to the history of Burma itself:
The struggle began in 1961 when tribal regions were to be consolidated in the wake of a military coup d'état in Burma led by General Ne Win. The goal was Burmese control over regions on the periphery of the state which were home to various ethnic groups.
A bloody war raged for the next 33 years, until 1994. It was not a conclusive war. The goal changed over time, from being a war for independence, to one seeking the fulfillment of the official Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) policy goal for autonomy within a federal union of Burma.
The KIA is the military element of a political group known as the Kachin Independence Organization. They are composed of ethnic Kachins who live in northern Burma (Myanmar).
Like the Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Kachin people historically live in an area not recognized by modern political boundaries or lines. They are a coalition of 6 different tribes whose homeland encompasses territory in Yunnan, China and Northeast India, in addition to Kachin State in Burma.
Their problems are rooted in Burma, whereas the Chinese are more interested in border security than political control. That said, the Chinese may be the beneficiaries of the Myitsone Dam's potential power supply and Chinese workers are hired to build it.
Perhaps the Chinese don't bother militarily with the Kachin because they have been a formidable fighting group that has matured over the years and now has elevated training. Prior to the ceasefire in 1994, the KIA was predominantly a low-tech guerilla force, but peace has provided the breathing room to establish a military academy and design rigorous officer training programs, wrote Time's Joe Jackson on 19 April 2012.
One writer who has long studied the issue, Tony Cliff, wrote in Asian Times, "The Kachin are feared by many people for their fighting capabilities. During WWII [World War II], when they fought alongside the British, they were given strong credit for helping to kick the Japanese out. They have this 'we can do, we can stand on our own' mentality." 
On 8 March 2012, Patrick Boehler of The Irrawaddy, talked in depth with Gen Sumlut Gun Maw, the vice-chief of staff of the Kachin Independence Army, about ongoing negotiations with the Burmese government. The General and spokesman for the KIA, said their main intention is to get equal rights and self-determination as agreed upon in the Panglong Agreement signed in 1947.
He stressed there were eight conditions that the KIA wanted in order for real negotiations to take place, "Both parties have to show willingness for political dialogue. Both parties must agree to report news only according to the facts. Neither party should make slanderous accusations of the other".
Interestingly, this week, Myanmar's Presidential Office spokesman, Ye Htut, who represented the Burma junta in peace talks in Kachin State for 13 months in 1993-94, said of that time,
"... the government didn’t put out any press releases because we wanted to avoid saying anything that could be an obstacle when it came time to return to the negotiating table. Later on, the other side started releasing statements, so we had to do the same to present our stance—the Tatmadaw’s stance—whether the Tatmadaw does this itself or not. My own comments [to the media] are in accordance with these statements." 
The Tatmadaw are the Myanmar Armed Forces. It remains unclear whether the real story will emerge from a government that was closed to the world for so long and is still largely irresponsible toward its duties as a world nation as it takes on the role of fledgling democracy.
Bloody Track Record
Those who follow Salem-News.com or other agencies that cover Burma, know that a series of terrible events beginning last summer destroyed relations between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Arakan state.
In many cases the government has either turned a blind eye on the genocidal war the Buddhists have carried out, or participated, directly or through an even deadlier weapon, silence.
Aung San Suu Kyi herself failed to represent this battered minority burned out of their villages and raped and murdered; forced to flee in boats that are in turn rejected on the neighboring shoreline of Bangladesh. Burma's new leap toward "democracy" and friendlier U.S. relations have been beneficial for that government, but not for the minority populations.
The Kachin struggle was launched against a brutal military junta that only recently changed, or allegedly changed. It is ridiculous to assume that free spirited people would ever want to partake in a ruthless government that fails to observe even the most minimal level of human rights.
Knowing what I do about this government's reluctance or sometimes refusal, to aid its own citizens in a time of bitter need, leaves no reason to believe that their latest attacks against the Kachin are justified, particularly when it comes to international law.
The Guardian, which released the video to the left, wrote:
"NGO video footage purports to show Burmese fighter jets targeting rebels in the northern state of Kachin, after reports of shelling and the use of chemical weapons in the last week. The Kachin Independence Army says the attacks are intended to clear the way for an assault on its headquarters in Laisa, but while the government acknowledges attacking the rebels from the air, is says it did so in self-defence".
Both the United States and United Nations have issued statements in recent days calling for an end to aerial attacks on Kachin people that the government claims it is defending itself against.
Ye Htut said in regard to the air attacks, "It’s not the first time we used airstrikes. It was based on military necessity. It is something we do depending on the fighting situation".
Some people in Laiza are believed to be suffering from trauma as a result of the artillery attacks and airstrikes. The Irrawaddy asked the Presidential spokesman if that creates more ethnic hatred.
He replied, "If you want to talk about trauma, we can tell you that the air attacks are not aimed at civilians. When we shoot, we are not shooting towards Laiza, but behind Laiza. The planes just fly over Laiza, so there is less impact on the people there".
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, contradicts that claim with his statement, "The ongoing hostilities have already caused large-scale displacement of civilians who continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance. It is vital that timely access be provided for the delivery of aid to vulnerable communities." Moon is urging all concerned parties to work toward political reconciliation to build the basis for a fair and durable outcome for all.
Ye Htut cause the last possible faith I have to flow into thin air as he issued this statement about how the families of KIA will not be distinguished as civilian. He claims this is consistent with international law, which is a false assertion at best, as his suggestion amounts to something called "Total War" where civilians are murdered along with soldiers. It is why the Geneva Accord was created in the first place.
World leaders need to pay particularly close attention to the aforementioned paragraph to understand who they are dealing with. The KIO aren't even in the military, they are civilian politicians, let alone the children and wives, etc. Demand that the government of President Thein Sein call off all attacks on the Kachin resistance and consider the impact this level of industry poses in an unspoiled place. Withhold funding if this government does not cooperate with international law.
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
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With almost 25 years of experience on the west coast and worldwide as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor, Tim King is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.
Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu
In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide.
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