Kachin Independence Army

    / Kachin Independence Organization
   Before it signed a cease-fire with the State Law and Order Restoration Council in 1994, the Kachin Independence Army was one of the best-organized and most-effective border area insurgencies, with "liberated areas" encompassing much of central and eastern Kachin State and a portion of northern Shan State, as much as 40,000 square kilometers. It had an armed strength in the early 1990s of 6,000 guerrillas. The Kachin Independence Organization is its political arm.
   A handful of World War II veterans established the KIA/KIO in February 1961 near Lashio. The new army's goal was to create an independent "Kachinland," reflecting disillusionment with the U Nu government's neglect of the Kachins, his plan to cede portions of Kachin State to the People's Republic of China, and his determination to make Buddhism the state religion (most Kachin leaders were Christian). Its most effective leader was Brang Seng, a Rangoon (Yangon) University graduate and former headmaster of a Baptist mission school in Myitkyina, who went underground with the KIO in 1963 and served as its chairman from 1975 until his death in 1994. In contrast to the chaotic insurgent and drug warlord situation in Shan State, the KIA/KIO succeeded in presenting the Ne Win regime with a united front, bringing together the Jinghpaw and smaller Kachin groups, such as the Lashi, Lisu, and Maru. Sales of opium and jade funded its operations, though not on the scale of groups in Shan State. Its relations with other armed groups and neighboring countries was characterized by pragmatism: It both fought and negotiated with the Communist Party of Burma, joined the National Democratic Front alliance of 11 armed groups, and received limited support from the government of India.
   The motivation for the 1994 cease-fire, which came after a 1991 agreement made by the Kachin Defense Army (formerly the fourth brigade of the KIA), was a longing for peace after over three decades of fighting and the belief that the political situation inside of Burma was changing, that the KIA/KIO could play a constructive role in bringing about a comprehensive reconciliation involving the ethnic groups, the Burmese opposition, and the post-1988 military regime. Since then it has been relatively successful in promoting development within its territories, including the running of Kachin languagemedium schools, a Teachers Training College, and hospitals, and the completion of infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, and hydroelectric plants. Its post-1994 achievements as a de facto "federal" government are in large measure due to strong community organization, though KIA/KIO chairman Zau Mai, who succeeded Brang Seng in 1994, was forced from power in 2001 because of widespread discontent with his top-down leadership and the alleged corruption of family members. After the cease-fire, the State Peace and Development Council gained control of the lucrative jadeite mines at Hpakant, leaving the KIA/KIO short of revenues. It has turned to selling timber to China, causing significant deforestation in the Kachin State-China border area.
   See also Naw Seng.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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