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A former member of the armed ethnic group, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which has been at loggerheads with the ruling junta in recent months, is eyeing a position in Burma’s new government.
If successful, it would mark a significant change in tack from Dr Manam Tu Ja, who was the KIO’s vice chairman until he resigned last year in order to compete in the elections. He now says that his decision to go one step further into Burma’s political arena is based on a desire to “keep politics alive”.
“Now I am going to choose and join a party that is already set up and capable of working practically, and [I will] work for politics as much as I can,” he told DVB, adding that he had submitted his application to the USDP last month.
The USDP was today officially sworn in as Burma’s new government and boasts around 800 parliamentary members. The junta-backed juggernaut won a landslide victory in the November elections last year and at its helm is the new president, Thein Sein.
After his exit from the KIO, one of the more prominent ethnic forces that has rejected attempts by the junta to be assimilated into the Burmese army, Tu Ja set up the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP) as a prelude to competing in the polls. The party was rejected however, as was his attempt to run as an independent candidate.
“I am doing this alone in an attempt to keep politics alive,” he said of his decision to join the USDP, whom many observers see as a continuation of the Burmese junta that spent decades trying to rout ethnic armies. He told the exiled Mizzima news agency last year, shortly after his resignation from the KIO, that Burma needed a party that would stand “for the people of the Kachin state”.
Tensions are on the rise in Tu Ja’s homeland of Kachin state as Burmese troops look to tighten the clamp on the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army. Earlier this month the KIA was actively trying to block rations and supplies destined for army battalions that had allegedly been deployed in its territory.
Sporadic bursts of fighting have broken out in Kachin state since late last year, following the KIA’s rebuttal of junta demands to become a Border Guard Force (BGF). Early last month gunfire was exchanged after a Burmese battalion entered KIA territory under the pretext of seeking and destroying illicit narcotics.
And in January a new military command zone was designated for Tanaing, a region controlled by the KIA, adding to Burmese army presence there. Tuja will be joining a party that has in its senior ranks former officials in the junta’s northern regional military command, the same unit that been heaping pressure on the KIO.