KIO Suspends Military Operations Near Northern Border at China’s Request

By The Irrawaddy 26 January 2022

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the ethnic Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has been fighting the military junta’s forces in the country’s north, said it would suspend military operations along the border at China’s request.

“Stability in the border region with China needs to be regarded as an important matter,” the KIO said in a statement released on Wednesday reflecting on the people’s revolt against the junta nearly a year after the coup.

KIO spokesman Colonel Naw Bu told The Irrawaddy that China asked the organization to halt the fighting along its border and across Myanmar, as China will host the 2022 Winter Olympics during the Lunar New Year in February and the 2022 Winter Paralympics in March.

China’s envoy for peace in Myanmar recently contacted all seven ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) based near its border by phone and asked them to hold their fire.

The KIO’s statement was a response to that call, said an analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the ethnic Kokang group’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, another EAO engaged in fierce fighting with junta troops in northern Shan State, also halted military operations this week at China’s request.

The KIO has been clashing with Myanmar regime troops since early March last year, following the junta’s indiscriminate shooting and killing of peaceful civilian anti-regime protesters.

The group seized the strategic Alaw Bum base close to the Chinese border, sparking several months of intense fighting.

KIA and junta troops frequently clash in areas controlled by the group in Kachin State’s Hpakant, northern Sagaing Region and northern Shan State, as the junta has been moving its troops in those places, said the KIO spokesman. The fighting has subsided since the start of the year, however, with no major offensives.

If the junta launches offensives in KIO/KIA areas or areas where joint forces of the KIA and local People’s Defense Forces operate in Sagaing Region, the group will resume fighting, Col. Naw Bu said.

“If they attack, we will have to defend,” he added.

Military tensions were heightened in Bamao and Moemauk townships and Waingmaw Township, which is close to the KIO/KIA’s headquarters in Laiza, throughout last year, but those areas attracted less media attention, added the analyst.

The KIO urged the international community to do more to address the issue of food security for those affected by the conflict, as well as COVID-19 prevention and healthcare provision, and to take steps to stop the junta targeting civilians.

But the group also welcomed the efforts made by neighboring countries, ASEAN, the UN and the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar to help resolve the country’s crisis and civil war.

“If Myanmar’s crisis cannot be resolved in a timely manner and the fighting becomes prolonged, Myanmar will be totally destroyed,” the statement reads.

The KIO also urged the junta’s State Administration Council to heed the people’s will and to respect justice.

Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and opposition to the military junta continue nearly a year after the coup of Feb. 1, 2021. The junta is also facing armed resistance from youth-led freedom fighters, who are being helped by some EAOs.

As of Jan. 25 the junta had killed at least 1,493 civilians and arrested 11,737 people including the country’s civilian leaders, according to monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The KIO also pledged to support the people’s call for Myanmar to become a federal democracy, and to join hands with any groups it can work with.

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