Following public criticism for its attendance of the Union peace conference last month, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) held a public briefing on June 3 defending its decision to take part.
General N’Ban La, vice chair of the KIO, said his surprise appearance at the 21st-Century Panglong Conference was neither a betrayal of the Kachin people, nor breaking rank from other ethnic armed groups who passed on invitations to participate.
“We didn’t lose much by attending the Panglong Conference. We have even made some headway. But the mistrust and belittling of the KIO leadership has gotten very bad on Facebook,” said Gen N’Ban La, addressing a group assembled at Padang Hall in Laiza, Kachin State.
The ethnic umbrella organization that the Kachin Independence Army was previously part of, the United Nationalities Federal Council, decided not to participate in the second iteration of the Union Peace Conference after it was offered only observer status, and not allowed to fully participate in discussions.
But the KIA resigned from the UNFC shortly before the conference, announcing that it would join a coalition headed by the United Wa State Army in its search for an alternative route to peace.
A UNFC Central Executive Committee member said nevertheless the KIA’s should have passed on the Panglong event because it was one of the groups that has not been allowed to stage regional dialogues to collect input from the public about their desired outcome from the peace process. Only groups that have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement are permitted to hold the dialogues.
“In my opinion, [Gen N’Ban La] was attending as a leader of the entire Kachin people. But it wasn’t a good plan to attend it without getting first having had the right to discuss the issues with all the Kachin people,” said Duwa Bawm Wang La Raw, a member of the UNFC’s Central Executive Committee and leader of the Kachin National Organization (KNO).
At the two-hour public briefing, Gen N’Ban La encouraged patience, and faith in the KIO. “Let’s march forward together through the political processes under the KIO’s leadership,” he said.
Kachin political parties were not invited to the public briefing, and members of the public were not allowed to ask questions.
Translated by Thida Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron