Photo: TNLA soldiers (PSLF/TNLA)
The Kachins in northern Shan state of Burma, officially known as Myanmar, have been rampant and the territories that the Kachins have been living in the northern Shan state belong to them for centuries. Therefore, the Kachins consider these territories in northern Shan state as the second home after the Kachin state and such territories used to have been officially entitled as Kachin sub-state during the British regime around 1946-1947. Most importantly, such Kachin sub-state was officially recognized by Shan state government in 1950s. In fact, even the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) was formed in the Kachin sub-state in 1960 as well as the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) in 1961. In several territories, both Kachin and Palaung also known as Ta’ang have been living side by side for centuries and it has continued till today. Therefore, the KIO has relentlessly supported to establish the Palaung liberation army for two generations. However, the establishment of Palaung liberation army has to be seriously considered for both KIO and the Kachin publics in northern Shan state due to current situations.
PSLO/PSLA and TNLA/PSLF
From the perspective of native peoples, the Kachins have always considered Palaung, Shan, Kokang, Wa and other hilly ethnic peoples in northern Shan state as close relatives, “Jinghku” in Kachin, since these hilly peoples have been living side by side in these territories. The leaders of KIO/KIA thus considered some leaders of Palaung as comrades. As a consequence, the leaders of KIO agreed to meet a group of Palaung leaders led by Mr. Hkan Taung in February, 1976 at the headquarters of KIO/KIA which was Pa Jau in Kachin state. In the meeting, both sides agreed the following principles:
(1) Perceptions, notions and beliefs
(a) The territories of Kachins and Palaungs have been connected and overlapped, therefore, these peoples have been living together with harmony throughout history.
(b) The Kachin and Palaung peoples are those who love their peoples and territories in terms of nationalists.
(c) The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Palaung State Liberation Organization (PSLO) have the same aims, in which each organization represents their own ethnic people as progressive organizations to liberate their peoples.
(d) The PSLO recognizes the Kachin state as a sovereign state for the Kachin peoples. Likewise, the KIO recognizes the Palaung state for full self-determination in terms of state autonomy.
(2) The Principles of Relations between KIO and PSLO
(a) The principle of relations between KIO and PSLO is based on equality.
(b) Mutual benefits are the fundamental principles to be respected between KIO and PSLO.
(c) Both KIO and PSLO are to fight against the common enemies particularly the Burmese army, also known as Tatmadaw.
(d) Any issues between KIO and PSLO will be solved with peaceful means for perpetual alliance of both organizations. Based on the above-mentioned agreements, both organizations agreed to be perpetual alliance for not only between KIO and PSLO, but also between the Kachin and Palaung peoples.
The agreements were signed by Mr. Maran Brang Seng, the Chairman of KIO, and Mr. Hkan Taung on behalf of PSLO on 14 February 1976. The KIO provided ammunitions, financial assistance and military trainings for PSLO in the establishment Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) for many years. As a result, PSLO/PSLA became active against central regimes until 1990s. However, PSLO/PSLA eventually gave up its political belief and ceded to military regime in 2005. In the end, the PSLO/PSLA has been dismantled. Therefore, the KIO/KIA took responsible for defending the Palaung publics living in the Kachin sub-state from 2005 to early 2011 until the war between KIA and Tatmadaw resumed.
Like PSLO/PSLA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army/Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) has been the second generation that the KIO supported to exist. In fact, some of the former leaders of PSLO/PSLA were the ones who approached the top KIO leaders for the establishment of TNLA/PSLF in early 2011. As a result, an agreement was signed between founders of TNLA/PSLF and the top leaders of KIO on 16 September 2011 and the principles of the agreement have been as follows:
(1) The political principles of both KIO and TNLA/PSLF have been based on the gentleman agreements of Panglong and its spirit.
(2) Based on political purpose, KIA and TNLA will collaborate for military means to fight against common enemy.
(3) KIO and TNLA/PSLF will keep maintaining the perpetual alliance between the Kachin and Palaung peoples.
Consequently, KIO provided the TNLA/PSLF for ammunition, financial assistance and military trainings for many years.
Blatant Actions of TNLA/PSLF
After 2015, TNLA/PSLF turned into the side of United Wa State Army (UWSA) since it received supports from UWSA. As the time went by, most leaders of TNLA/PSLF seemed to forget what the KIO has helped them for the establishment of TNLA/PSLF. As the worst scenarios, TNLA/PSLF started to strategize against both KIO and the Kachin peoples across the territories of Kachin in northern Shan state. For instance, TNLA/PSLF blatantly draw most territories of the Kachin under 4, 6 and 10 brigades of KIA in northern Shan state as Palaung state. Moreover, TNLA/PSLF has been collecting war fund across the Kachin’s territories where the KIA has been mobilizing. Importantly, it has been obvious that the TNLA/PSLF has been intentionally making many problems to the Kachin publics in northern Shan state, namely torture, threat, kidnapping for money, extrajudicial killings the Kachin villagers across the Kachin territories in northern Shan state since 2017 till today. All these cases that the TNLA/PSLF has committed to both KIA and the Kachin publics have been recorded.
In fact, both the rank and file of KIA and Kachin publics in northern Shan state have already proposed the issues of TNLA/PSLF to the KIO headquarters since 2018. For instance, the rank and file of KIA in northern Shan state have been exhausted for tolerance as the TNLA/PSLF has been continuously aggressive towards both the rank and file of KIA and the Kachin publics in northern Shan state. However, the KIO headquarters keeps convincing the Kachin publics and the rank and file of KIA in northern Shan state that the status of perpetual alliance between KIO/KIA and TNLA/PSLF has to be maintained. To this end, the atmosphere in the ground reveals
that the rank and file of KIA and the Kachin publics in northern Shan state seems to be impatient for not taking actions by the KIO headquarters over the issues of TNLA/PSLF. So far, the Kachin publics in northern Shan state has been demanding the KIO headquarters be accountable to take the actions over TNLA/PSLF.
Kodawng Uma is a political analyst based in northern Shan State. He can be reached at [email protected].