Police raid escalates tension in Kachin state

A police raid on the offices of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in northern Burma has coincided with an alleged attempt to frame a Kachin official in a drugs bust.

Tension appears to be on the rise between the KIO and the Burmese junta after the group’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of Burma’s largest ceasefire groups, refused last month to transform into a Border Guard Force.

State-run media has since branded the KIA as “insurgents” and blamed them for a landmine that left one dead and two injured, which the KIA has said it is investigating.

But on Monday evening, relations took a further dive after police raided two offices in Kachin state’s Mohnyin and Hopin towns, hours after the KIO’s liaison officer, Hkawng Lum, escaped from police custody.

A resident in Mohnyin told DVB that Hkawng Lum had been arrested after visiting the landmine victims in Mohnyin hospital. According to the Kachin News Groups, he escaped with the help of his bodyguard.

A senior KIO official, Henry, said that police had tried to frame Hkawng Lum by planting drugs in his car, as well as charging him for owning an unlicensed vehicle. It was after his escape that the raids began.

“Before 11pm [on Monday], they [police] came to search the KIO’s two liaison offices in Mohnyin and Hopin,” said Henry. “The staff at our office wouldn’t let them in but the police kept pressuring them so the situation grew tense.

“Finally, [the KIO] headquarters agreed to let them in. We don’t know what they were looking for.” He added that the KIO had no information on the whereabouts of Hkawng Lum.

In response, the Kachin army intensified troop numbers in Hopin and surrounded a Burmese army outpost close to Laiza, where the group’s headquarters are. They withdrew several hours later after negotiations with the Burmese government’s Military Affairs Security (MAS).

The KIO claims it is still looking for a diplomatic solution to the stand-off, but remains steadfast in its refusal to transform into a Border Guard Force, a move that will see lower-ranking troops assimilated into the Burmese army.

The junta has threatened force against those who reject the offer, despite only a small handful of Burma’s multiple armed ethnic groups agreeing to the transformation.

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