Kachin Independence Army to celebrate Christmas and New Year

Not to be cowed by the Burmese military junta despite the pressure being brought to bear on it, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization, and the second strongest ethnic army in Burma is gearing up to celebrate Christmas and New Year over two days, said KIA sources.

The celebrations come with war clouds looming in the horizon between the KIA and Burmese Army in Northern Burma.
Traditional Kachin-style Christmas will be celebrated tomorrow, December 31 while the New Year of 2011 will be celebrated the next day in the KIA territories in the two states--- Kachin State and Northern Shan State, said KIA officers in Laiza general headquarters in Kachin State.

The head of the KIA military command headquarters known as Dai Lawn Rung in Kachin, has instructed all KIA battalions and divisions in the two states to celebrate the two famous religious festivals, according to officers in the KIA regional battalions.

The KIA and its political wing the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) run a parallel government in Kachin State and its army battalions are stationed around Kachin State along the China and India borders.

A KIA officer in Battalion No.1 based in Nbapa said, “All the soldiers in the battalion are going to celebrate Christmas and New Year over two days by slaughtering animals and seek the blessings of the Almighty.”

In the Kachin community in Burma, Christmas is celebrated in the days between December 1 and 31, though Christmas is on December 25.

On Christmas Day, people in the KIO headquarters of Laiza celebrated on a small-scale because there is palpable tension between the KIO and Burmese regime, according to the Laiza Kachin Baptist Church.

Relations between the KIO and the junta soured after the ethnic group rejected the regime-proposed transformation of KIA into the Burma Army-controlled Border Guard Force on August 30. Subsequently, the KIO/KIA also refused to surrender its arms.
The junta broke the over 16-year ceasefire agreement with the KIO/KIA and began mounting myriad pressure on its former ceasefire partner. The junta dubbed the KIO an insurgent group, closed all its liason offices in Burma and put obstacles on trade on the China border with Kachin State.

Now, civil war may break out any time if the Burmese Army attacks the KIA, said KIA officers. The KIA, has however, reiterated that it will not fire the first shot.
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