A soldier in the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) sentenced to death for assassinating a Burmese Army regional commander in 1985 was among the 514 prisoners released in Monday’s amnesty.
Lahpai Zau Seng, a KIA ‘commando’, was found guilty of assassinating Burmese Army’s Northern Regional Military Commander L. Kun Hpang, a fellow Kachin, in 1985. He was released from Mandalay’s Myingyan prison during the presidential amnesty yesterday after spending more than 26 years behind bars.
Zau Seng told DVB he carried out the assassination under orders from the KIA’s then Chief-of-Staff Zau Mai.
“The order came from the Chief-of-Staff. At the time, I was the leader of a [KIA] special unit tasked with urban operations and U Zaw Mai had instructed me to take out [Burmese Army] personnel,” said Zau Seng.
The Kachin Independence Army has never admitted to orchestrating L. Kun Hpang’s assassination; however, according to a report in the Irrawaddy, Zau Seng has “never expressed either remorse or pride for his role in the assassination”.
After being released this week, the former commando voiced his concern for the refugees displaced by the current fighting between government forces and the KIA, adding that he will be working to bring peace to Kachin state. He also noted, in his opinion, that the current fighting in the northern Burmese state is a struggle for sovereignty, not an ethnic war.
Fighting resumed between the government and the KIA last summer after a 17-year ceasefire broke down, which has displaced an estimated 90,000 people.