Election 2020

Militia Leader’s Son in Myanmar’s Kachin to Seek Reelection to State Parliament

By Nan Lwin 13 August 2020

YANGON—The son of a Kachin militia leader plans to defend his seat in the Kachin State parliament in this year’s election, representing a constituency in territory held by the group on the China-Myanmar border. Ruling party members came under attack while campaigning in the constituency ahead of the 2015 election.

The sitting Kachin parliament member, Zahkung Ying Sau—the son of Zahkung Ting Ying, the leader of the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK) militia group in northern Kachin State—submitted his application to the Union Election Commission (UEC) to contest the seat in the state parliament representing Chipwe Township for the New Democracy Party-Kachin (NDP-Kachin).

The NDP-Kachin was formed in February last year. Zahkung Ying Sau joined as vice president after his former party, the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State, merged with other Kachin parties. A total of 13 representatives of the NDP-Kachin submitted candidate applications to contest the election in militia-held townships including Waimaw, Chipwe and Tsawlaw.

A former local commander of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Zahkung Ting Ying defected to the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in 1968. Forces under Ting Ying’s control were transformed into the NDAK following the CPB’s collapse in 1989. The NDAK was converted into a Border Guard Force (BGF) in 2009, becoming a government-sponsored militia.

One month before the 2015 general election, armed members and supporters of Ting Ying attacked NLD candidates and members who were attempting to campaign in Chipwe Township, which was under NDAK control. According to the NLD, up to 20 of its members sustained minor injuries in the attack. Ting Ying also issued a statement ordering NLD candidates not to campaign in NDAK territory.

In 2016, a UEC tribunal ordered Zahkung Ting Ying to vacate his Upper House seat after it found he was guilty of breaching the Election Law. The commission cited electoral “malpractices” including “committing violence,” “false accusations,” “creating public unrest” and obstructing a party or person “for the purpose of electing a candidate.”

The NLD candidate in that race also brought electoral complaints against Ying Sau to the UEC but they were dismissed for lack of evidence.

Currently, Zahkung Ting Ying does not hold a position in NDP-Kachin. However, the party’s Facebook posts show him participating in the organization’s activities.

NDP-Kachin vice president Zahkung Ying Sau. / Zahkung Ying Sau / Facebook

In the upcoming election, Zahkung Ying Sau’s main opponents will be candidates from the NLD, Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP), United Democratic Party (UDP) and Lisu National Development Party (LNDP).

Zahkung Ying Sau told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that “Conditions in our area are quite different from other areas. We signed a ceasefire agreement with the military in 1990. We also transformed into the BGF. We are maintaining all development works that we have implemented in our areas. Our main priority is to maintain the lasting peace that we originally created.”

He said, “We will also try to focus on improving education and health as well.”

“The local people from our areas support out party 100 percent. The other parties will also contest in our areas but we will try our best. I think we will surely win in these areas,” Ying Sau added.

When asked whether the other parties would be able to campaign in NDAK-controlled territories without facing similar hostilities to those faced by the NLD in 2015, he said, “It won’t happen again. We will follow all the rules and regulations set by the UEC.”

Zahkung Ying Sau added, “The problem happened in 2015 because those people had little knowledge about the situation on the ground. But we could not guarantee the security of all the people who carried out campaign rallies in our areas.

“However, I am sure that I personally won’t cause them any problem. We, ourselves [the NDAK] have returned to the legal fold. So, we will compete by following the rules and regulations set by the government,” he said.

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