Friday, July 31, 2009

Top commander meets Kachin religious leaders

by Phanida
Thursday, 30 July 2009 16:32

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Ethnic Kachin spiritual leaders met the ruling Burmese Junta’s Commander of the Northern Military Command, Maj-Gen Soe Win, on Wednesday and held parleys regarding the transformation of the Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) armed forces into a Border Guard Force (BGF).

The meeting, between Maj-Gen Soe Win-led junta delegation and leaders of the Myitkyina Christian Council (MCC) was held at St. Columban Catholic Church in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state. The meeting, which was attended by KIO’s Vice Chairman (2) Dr. Htooja, went on for over 3 hours.

Burma’s ruling military junta had earlier proposed that the KIO, the largest Kachin ceasefire group, transform its army – the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – into a Border Guard Force (BGF), which would be under the Burmese Army’s administration.

However, the proposal was met with a different proposal by the KIO, stating their refusal to transform into the BGF and instead citing their desire to transform as the Kachin Regional Guard Force (KRGF). This would allow them to maintain their army without interference by the Burmese Army.

“Maj-Gen Soe Win, during the meeting said KIO’s demand of transforming into KRGF was not enough. It would include only Kachin State. But, what the junta was proposing to the KIO was much better and would be at the national level,” a person, who attended the meeting, told Mizzima.

Another person, who also attended the meeting told Mizzima, “When the KIO asked Maj-Gen Soe Win whether the name KIO would still remain if they transformed into the Border Guard Force, he replied that the name would not remain the same.”

Regarding the question of what would happen to the current KIO’s electricity supplies; Soe Win told the gathering that it would be treated as a company.

Rev. Zung Kyang, Chairman of the MCC delegation, told Soe Win and the other delegates that they opposed war and conflict, and requested them to comply with the KIO’s demand of allowing them to transform into the Kachin Regional Guard Force.

“The MCC emphasized two points at the meeting. They are opposed to war and armed conflict and the need to discuss and accept the KIO’s proposal. We want the government to negotiate on the KIO’s demand,” an elder of the Kachin Baptist, who attended the meeting, told Mizzima.

The meeting was attended by leaders of Baptist, Catholic, and other independent churches from Myitkyina, Wai Maw, Moe Kaung, Moe Nyin, Hpakant, Kamine, Tanaing, Chi Phwe and Bamo towns in Northern Burma’s Kachin State.

“During the meeting, people, who did not understand the issue of transition, raised questions and had discussions. The Burmese Army delegates urged the people to unite in making the Constitution a reality and to build a democratic nation in order to have lasting peace,” a priest at the St. Columban Church told Mizzima.

The Junta’s proposed Border Guard Force, the idea for which was put forward to the KIO on April 28, will have 326 soldiers in a battalion and would include the Burmese Army representatives in the administration.

But the KIA, which has five brigades and has bases not only in Kachin State but also in Northern Shan State, does not want to negotiate as they have already agreed in their ceasefire agreement, but wants to form the Kachin Regional Guard Force, which would only be administered by the KIO.

Besides, the KIO had also requested the junta to allow their participation at the three branches of Kachin State Government to be formed after the junta handed over power to the new government, which would be formed after the 2010 election.

The KIO, which has been struggling for self-determination, signed a ceasefire agreement on February 24, 1994.