Junta tries old tactics on new ‘insurgents’

A smear campaign is being undertaken by the Burmese junta to dirty the name of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is now branded an “insurgent group”, the KIA has said.

The ethnic army from northern Burma has refused demands by the junta to transform into a Border Guard Force (BGF) and thus come under the control of Naypyidaw, a move that has drawn the ire of the ruling generals as they prepare for elections on 7 November.

It claims that a letter allegedly penned by senior KIA officials ordering its troops to shoot-on-site any Burmese soldiers that stray into Kachin territory is phony, and designed to foment unrest.

The KIA’s spokesperson, Colonel Sin Wa, denied that the group had any involvement in the letter, and claimed that the alleged signatory, the ‘Frontline Security Group’ of the KIA did not exist.

The shift to the use of “insurgent” is also seen as significant. The reference was made in an article last week in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper that accuses “KIA insurgents” of planting a landmine in Kachin state’s Mogaung township that killed one man and left two wounded.

The article added that 14 people “have fallen to victims of mine attacks [sic] by insurgents across the nation” this year – the majority of those are blamed on the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in eastern Karen state, which has fought a 60-year civil war for independence.

Colonel Sin Wa refused to comment on KIA involvement in the landmine, but a statement said the group was “opening [an] investigation on the incident”.

It appears now that a 20-year ceasefire agreement between the KIA and the junta is on tenterhooks. James Lundau, spokesperson of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), said that following its refusal to transform into a Border Guard Force, said that “the [Burmese army] now regards us as their enemy”.

The junta had warned ethnic armies who refused the transformation that relations would return to pre-ceasefire days, with attacks from the Burmese army likely.

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