The Irrawaddy

Ethnic Party Accuses KIA of Killing Lisu People

Lisu people take part in a ceremony. (Photo: Thaw Hein Htet/The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The Lisu National Development Party (LNDP) has released a statement dated April 21 accusing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) of killing Lisu people living in Kachin State and demanding the return of their bodies.

LNDP chairman U Shwe Min accused the KIA, the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), of abducting and killing six Lisu people in the townships of Waingmaw and Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State, and burying their bodies in 2016 and 2017.

U Shwe Min stated that KIA troops were responsible because they were at the crime scenes and some even confessed, according to him.

“The KIA killed local Lisu farmers for no reason and buried them,” U Shwe Min told The Irrawaddy. “Six were killed in a year. We want to know why they did that, and we want to get the bodies back.”

The statement said 36-year-old Zaw Lay of Khaxi village in Waingmaw Township was kidnapped and killed by the KIA on April 12 this year. The LNDP asked the KIA for the body, but KIA soldiers had already buried it, according to the statement, which also accused the KIA of planting landmines to kill Lisu people.

Over the past two years, five other Lisu people have been killed and buried by the KIA, said U Shwe Min: one in Kapiketi sub-township last January, three in Sadone sub-township last March, and one in March this year.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the KIA/KIO for comment.

The KIA accidentally shot the Lisu people while trying to prevent them from burning the bush to make space for farming and is not targeting the ethnic groups, surmised Lamai Guang Jia of the Kachin Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG).

“We questioned them about the deaths in 2016 and they said they tried to stop them from bush burning,” he said. “But they didn’t listen, so they made warning shots and accidentally hit them. [The KIA troops] said they were not aware if the victims were Lisu, Kachin or Bamar.

“They didn’t do it out of racial hatred. In fact, the commander of the outpost [near where the Lisu victims were killed] is also a Lisu man.”

Lamai Guang Jia was “saddened” that the LNDP statement focused on racial antagonism, and said the allegation that the KIA was planting landmines to kill Lisu people was wrong, adding that they triggered the mines when bush burning.

The PCG has urged civil society organizations (CSOs) to intervene and for the LNDP to hold direct talks with the KIA/KIO, he said.

“We have asked CSOs to mediate, but the statement that was issued recently includes harsh words,” he added.

There are about 400,000 Lisu people, the majority of whom live in Kachin State as well as Shan and Karenni states and Mandalay and Sagaing divisions, said U Shwe Min.