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Martyred KIO founders honored with memorial

The assassinated founders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) were honored yesterday at a ceremony in northern Thailand with the unveiling of a memorial pillar.

The martyred founder and leader of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) General Zau Seng is honored during a April 24, 2012 ceremony held at a former KIO base at Htam Ngawp Bum mountain in Thailand.The ceremony was held at Htam Ngawp Bum mountain, a former KIO military base in the Mueang Fang district in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand. The base was the location of the August, 1975 killing of the KIO's then leader General Zau Seng and his younger brother Zau Tu, who was the KIO's Vice Chief of Staff.

Zau Seng, Zau Tu and another brother Zau Dan co-founded the KIO in 1961. Zau Dan was killed in battle in March 1975 while his other two brothers died some months later at their Thai military stronghold under circumstances that remain controversial to this day.

The service at Htam Ngawp Bum was joined by over 200 people including many of the Zau Seng's former comrades and surviving family members.

Zau Seng's widow, Tangbau Nang Bawk told the Kachin News Group “this memorial ceremony could not be held in the past. Now that there is war and again it is time to honor the fallen KIO founders and receive their blessing” she added.

kio-founder-zau-seng3A third martyr from the August 1975 assassination, Pungshwi Zau Seng, the KIO's then General Secretary was also honored during the ceremony.

The April 24th ceremony was held 46 years after the KIO leadership first established a presence in Thailand in 1966, said Hkawng Hkawng, a KIO veteran who served as Zau Seng's radio operator.

Officially the KIO maintains that Zau Seng, Zau Tu and their political ally Pungshwi Zau Seng were all killed as part of a plot orchestrated by Burma's then ruling military dictator General Ne Win.  It is widely understood however that all three were in fact killed following an internal power struggle over the direction of the KIO and its armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

According to accounts from those present during the assassinations Zau Seng died on August 10, 1975 while both his younger brother Zau Tu and Pungshwi Zau Seng met their ends some four days earlier on August 6.

Just months after Zau Seng's death his successors formed an alliance with the Communist Party of Burma, a stark shift in direction for the KIO which under Zau Seng's leadership maintained a more conservative and official anti communist stance.

In recent years the KIO leadership has taken steps to restore Zau Seng's legacy, including reprinting his portrait and distributing information about his life. In August 2005, on the 30th anniversary of his assassination the KIO officially marked “Martyrs Day” for Zau Seng.