Burma Army to Assist with Festival Security in Kachin State

By Hnin Yadanar Zaw 26 November 2014

RANGOON — The Burma Army has announced it will provide additional security for the first Manau festival to be staged in the Kachin State capital in four years, despite complaints about the level of military involvement in the last festival.

Col. Than Aung, Minister of Border Security in Kachin State, told The Irrawaddy by phone on Tuesday that the Burma Army would assist local police in Myitkyina by providing government troops during the festival period.

“Since some clashes have broken out recently, we will provide additional security for the government officials and diplomats who will be attending the ceremony,” he said.

The Manau festival is held annually around Jan. 10 to commemorate the founding of Kachin State in 1948. The festival was held every year from the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the Burmese junta and the Kachin Independence Organization in 1994 until renewed fighting broke out in 2011.

With prospects for a durable peace agreement improving over the course of the last 12 months, the Kachin State government has decided to stage the festival next year from Jan. 7-11.

The last time the Manau festival was held in 2011, local Kachin media reported attendees were unhappy about the level of control exercised by the military over the proceedings.

Col. Than Aung said that the military had no plans to intervene in the operation of the festival.

“We are just taking responsibility for security,” he said.

The festival’s working committee is currently redecorating Manau National Park and arranging a schedule of events.

“We sent out the invitation letters to all the embassies in Yangon [Rangoon] in the past few weeks,” said Zaw Shan Lun, vice-president of the working committee for the Manau festival. “We are now arranging accommodation and transport for our guests.”

“We will make sure the festival is held in January, as long as conditions don’t worsen,” he added.

The Burmese army will collaborate with the police force in drawing up security plans and government troops will act jointly with police over the course of the festival, according to Mya Than Htike, the Myitkyina police chief.

Tensions between the Burma Army and Kachin State residents have escalated since the shelling of a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) base last week claimed the lives of 23 cadets from other non-state armies.

On Sunday, the Army fired more than a dozen mortar rounds in the vicinity of KIA positions and camps for internally displaced civilians.