Ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), yesterday marked Kachin Martyr’s Day in its territorial town of Laiza near the Sino-Burma border.
Kachin Martyrs’ Day has been marked by the KIO since 2004 to commemorate the death of its co-founder Zaw Hsai, son of a Baptist minister and a virulent anti-communist who was assassinated on the 10th of August 1975.
A KIO official in Laiza told DVB that the commemoration was held by its troops at 7 am on August the 10 th, followed by a public assembly in the town at 10 am.
“We are commemorating Martyr’s Day amongst the troops and the public, to remember our martyrs, comrades and leaders who sacrificed their lives for the people, and to remind ourselves to keep on striving for our future works,” said the official.
Yesterday’s Martyrs’ Day assembly was joined by about 1,000 KIO members and local villagers from nearby the towns. A villager who went to the event said the KIO leaders explained to them that Martyr’s Day was being marked to promote national spirit amongst the Kachin people.
“[The KIO leaders] said Kachin people previously had come see less value in the Martyr’s Day and that was interpreted as lack of attention towards [Kachin] national affairs,” said the villager.
“We were told the aim for holding the commemoration was to inspire Kachin people to emulate and take example from the fallen martyrs and their work as well as to promote [Kachin] national spirit and patriotism.”
The KIO was formed in 1961 and today controls much of Kachin State. The organisation has had a fragile cease fire with the Burmese junta since 1994. It maintains the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) as its armed wing which has four brigades in Kachin State and one in northern Shan State where a significant Kachin population resides. With total troop numbers estimated at 5,000 active soldiers not including reserve troops, it is one of the larger ethnic armies after the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) who have roughly 20,000 and 7,000 troops respectively.