Kachin officials resign with eye to elections

Sept 8, 2009 (DVB), Five senior officials from the largest Kachin ceasefire group have resigned in order to create a political party to run in the 2010 Burmese elections, party officials said.

The move comes following pressure from the Burmese junta on ceasefire groups to transform themselves into political parties and re-enter what it calls the 'legal fold'.

The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), one of Burma's most prominent ceasefire groups, had previously wavered over the transformation that would see them lay down arms and reduce the group size.

An announcement on 5 September that five senior officials, including vice-chairperson Dr Manam Tu Ja, were resigning will be warmly received by the government, which so far has had mostly rejections from ceasefire groups.

"We are not sacking them from our group , we are only letting them go to get involved in the practical business," said James Lum Dau, foreign affairs coordinator for KIO. "They wanted to enter [the elections] and we also feel that they should."

The KIO and other Kachin organisations, such as the New Democratic Army-Kachin and the Kachin National Consultative Assembly, last year formed the Kachin State Interim Committee.

The 49-member group was formed in order to carry out preparations for participation in the 2010 elections.

Dr Tu Ja said that it is now time to put the emphasis on forming a political party, and their plan was approved by the KIO's Central Executive Committee.

"The KIO doesn't disagree with civilians forming a political party to enter the elections even though they have no plan to do it by themselves," said Tu Ja.

Meanwhile, the KIO has again stressed that it will not transform into a border guard force following increased pressure from the government.

Many believe that this is another strategy that will bring ceasefire groups under government control. This factor was a key catalyst behind recent fighting between the government and ceasefire groups in northeastern Burma's Shan state.

"We want to be appointed as [Kachin state's] regional guard force rather than be a border militia," said James Lum Dau, following a general assembly meeting on 6 September.

"We said in the statement the KIO will avoid armed confrontation at all cost and that the [government] should work together with us for the fruit of the nation."

Reporting by Aye Nai

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