21 June 2011

High spirits at the KIO headquarters

IN Laiza spirits are high. There is a vibrancy in the air and the leadership of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), talk of their options with optimism. Many civilians have huddled into churches and makeshift refugee camps just meters from the Chinese border. They have chosen this spot because they don't trust the central government not to order an attack on civilians, but know that Naypyidaw is concerned about shelling China by accident. Those left in the city don't look scared.

The Kachin are in the honeymoon stage of war. If this turns into a full-scale prolonged war, this honeymoon will fade as the realities of war and refugees grow. However, the celebratory atmosphere in Laiza is not without warrant. I have personally seen many factors, some of which are still unknown even to specialists on the topic, that give the Kachin reason to be optimistic about their position and enable them to bargain with the central government with authority. The Burmese army has no chance of quickly wiping out the KIA as they did the Kokang in 2009.

The Kachin are known to be fierce fighters, but they are not warmongers. Even now, in the excitement of renewed fighting, one of the most frequently spoken words I hear during the long civil debates among the leaders and elders is “simsa,” which means peace in their native Jinghpaw language. The Kachin are the most peace-loving, kind and tolerant people I have ever come across. Read full story at The Irrawaddy

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