Interview: 'We Will Not Allow Election Campaigning in KIA-Controlled Territories'

kia-assk.jpg Myanmar ethnic rebel leader General Gun Maw (C) from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) arrives at a hotel after a meeting with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw, July 12, 2018.

Col. Naw Bu, is the spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The KIA has been fighting the Myanmar central government on and off since 1960 for autonomy for Kachin State and the one million Kachin living in Myanmar. The KIA, with an estimated 4,000 fighters is one of a group of ethnic armies that have announced they will skip a government-sponsored peace conference from Aug 19-21. The KIA also will not permit election campaigning for Nov. 8 general elections in the territories it controls in Kachin State, Myanmar’s northernmost state which borders China and India. Soe San Aung of RFA’s Myanmar Service spoke to Naw Bu this week about the election and peace talks.

RFA: How does the KIA view the upcoming 2020 election?

Naw Bu: We have no comment on the election. The people under government controlled areas will cast their votes. But not in KIA-controlled areas. We will neither object nor interfere. We will not allow election campaigning in KIA-controlled territories.

RFA: Can you tell specifically which areas are KIA-controlled areas?

Naw Bu: KIA controlled territories are not distinctive like those of the United W State Army. In Myitkyina, we have a presence. Also in Hpakant and Ta-naing areas. I would like to say that campaigning in these areas will not be allowed. We don’t have our flags raised in these areas. There are 18 townships in Kachin State. In all townships, there are KIA-administered areas and government-administered areas.

RFA: What do you think about Kachin parties combining to contest the election?

Naw Bu: Although they are Kachin, they are in government-administered areas. They can contest in the election and campaign freely.

RFA: The NLD government’s five-year tenure is almost over. Comparing the (2011-16) Thein Sein government’s performance and that of the National League fo Democracy (NLD), which one is better at handling the peace process?

Naw Bu: There are not many differences for us between the two governments. However, Thein Sein’s government worked in line with the 2008 Constitution. With the NLD government, it is like twin governments with the military and government administration as separate entities. It has caused many obstacles in peace negotiations. Sometime negotiations for a ceasefire are going well with NRPC but not with the military. It has become an obstacle. It is hard for us to know which one has the final say.

RFA: Why are the peace talks stalled?

Naw Bu: In my opinion, the peace pronounced by the NLD is not the same as the peace pronounced by the ethnic armed groups. The democracy we talked about is not the same as the democracy defined by the military. We all need to talk over these issues.

Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung.

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