KIA Keeps Tabs on Tay Za

By Lin Thant 12 December 2013

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) says it is keeping tabs on Tay Za, a Burmese tycoon on the US sanctions list, to determine whether his investments in Kachin State are benefiting the local people or solely padding his own pockets.

KIA deputy chief Maj-Gen Gun Maw said he met with Tay Za in Rangoon last month and expressed displeasure at the tycoon’s financial and moral support to the Burma government army, which was continuing to exchange heavy fire with the ethnic rebel group.

“We can understand if he looks for new technology, arms and ammunition for the Burmese army, because he was assigned by the government,” Gun Maw recently told The Irrawaddy in an exclusive interview. “But we cannot accept when he provides direct assistance to the army columns that came to launch offensives against us.”

Gun Maw, who has met with Tay Za in the past, said he requested information last month about the tycoon’s investments in Burma’s northernmost resource-rich state.

“After looking at data from him, we can find out how his businesses will affect our people, and we will have a better idea what to discuss with him,” the KIA deputy chief said. “We will invite businessmen who can contribute to the good of our people and our Kachin State, with real goodwill. But we will have to say openly if any business affects our people.”

Tay Za is reportedly launching a number of businesses in the Putao area and other parts of the state, including logging, mining and resorts.

But he has not been transparent with the local people about his plans, Gun Maw said.

“The KIO is always watching to see if he is working not only for the people in Putao, but also for Kachin people as a whole, or if he is working for his own benefit,” he said.

The KIA has also voiced its displeasure at other business ventures which it believes will not help local people, including the Chinese-backed Myitsone Dam. Gun Maw said the rebel group sent an official letter to Beijing rejecting construction of the dam, which was suspended by the Burma government in 2011 due to opposition from the public.

“We sent an official rejection to both Snr-Gen Than Shwe, Burma’s former junta supremo, and the Chinese president regarding the construction of the Myitsone dam project after it was first reported in newspapers in Burma,” the KIA deputy chief said.

“The Myitsone area is historically important for local people, and also the lifeline of the whole country—that’s why we opposed it. We still hold that position.”

Beijing has reportedly urged the Burma government and the KIA to end clashes.

“Many problems go on the China side of the border whenever fighting breaks out on our side, so the Chinese government has asked the KIA not to engage in battles in the border areas, and we have heard that it told the Burmese administration the same,” Gun Maw said.