New Vice Chairs Appointed in KIO Reshuffle

By Lawi Weng 27 January 2016

RANGOON — The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has reshuffled its senior ranks, with two leading figures in the group’s armed wing promoted to senior posts in the political unit.

During a five-day conference in Laiza, Kachin State, which began on Jan. 21, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)’s chief-of-staff Gen Gam Shawng and deputy chief-of-staff Gen Gun Maw were appointed as joint deputy chairs of the KIO.

Lt-Gen N’Ban La had served in the position. According to San Awng of the Kachin Peace Creation Group, he will now serve as deputy chair of the Kachin Independence Council (KIC), another political arm of the ethnic armed group.

Brig-Gen Hkawn Lum and Brig-Gen Awng Seng La will share the post of deputy chief-of-staff of the KIA, while Gen. Gam Shawng will continue to act as KIA chief-of-staff concurrent with his new position, according to San Awng.

Zawng Hra remains chairman of the KIO.

San Awng said the current reshuffle was the most significant since 2001 and was based on the new political realities in the country, with the National League for Democracy set to form government.

“Gen N’Ban La will be the second key player in the KIO working in the political section. Then Gen Gum Maw will work as a policy maker,” he said, adding that the latter official would be able to continue to focus on the peace process.

According to San Awng, Zawng Hra is aging and attends few meetings of the armed group but still makes important decisions.

The KIO has also reportedly formed a committee charged with soliciting advice from the Kachin community on building peace with the incoming government.

The KIA commands between 7,000 to 10,000 troops, according to the Myanmar Peace Monitor, and is one of several ethnic armed groups that did not sign the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement in mid-October.

The group has been locked in intermittent fighting with the Burma Army since a 17-year ceasefire broke down in June 2011.