Kachin Independence Leader Steps Down

By Hein Htoo Zan 4 January 2023

The chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) General N’ Ban La, 79, stepped down on Monday and has been replaced by General Gam Shawng.

A commander from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the KIO’s armed wing, said changes are made to the KIO’s central executive committee every four years and Gen N’Ban La was in poor health.

“The general has served a four-year term and he said last year that he wanted to step down. He has been treated in hospital recently,” the commander, who requested anonymity, told The Irrawaddy.

KIA spokesman Colonel Naw Bu was unavailable for comment.

The KIA has been fighting the regime since shortly after the 2021 coup.

In his New Year’s Day speech, Gen N’ Ban La called the junta the enemy of all citizens and asked everyone and all ethnic armed organizations to attack decisively as no regime can resist a revolution of the entire people.

Gen Gam Shawng is known for his discipline and dedication. He played a major role in the seizure of the strategic Alaw Bum hilltop base near the border with China from the junta in 2021.

The general has taken responsibility for training more than 4,000 anti-regime resistance fighters in Kachin State.

U Than Soe Naing, a political analyst, said the leadership change would make no difference.

“All the KIO and KIA leaders have a strong commitment to the revolution, all internal discussions are handled well and they work well with the National Unity Government [NUG]. They will keep working hard for the revolution, despite the leadership change,” he said.

U Than Soe Naing said the KIO had already accepted the NUG’s Federal Democracy Charter and will continue to fight alongside the NUG.

Gen Gam Shawng was the KIA commander-in-chief and KIO chief of staff and has been replaced in those roles by Lieutenant General Khaung Lun.