A coalition of Kachin exiles meeting in Thailand jointly declared their desire for an independent Kachin state, if the country's central government continues to reject federalism, according to a statement issued on January 4, Burma's Independence Day.
The statement was released following a meeting in Chiang Mai of representatives from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Kachin National Organization (KNO), the All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU), the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) and the Pan Kachin Development Society (PKDS).
The statement decried the Burman dominated central government's continued rejection of a democratic federal state, as outlined by General Aung San and ethnic leaders in the January 1947 Panglong agreement.
The Panglong agreement signed by Aung San Suu Kyi's father and key leaders of the Kachin, Shan and Chin communities, gave political rights to Burma's non-Burman ethnic nationalities, including the right to local self-government in ethnic populated "Frontier Areas".
The agreement also stated that Burma’s central government “will not operate in respect of the Frontier Areas in any manner which would deprive any portion of these areas of the autonomy which it now enjoys in internal administration. Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas is accepted in principle”.
Panglong agreement never honored by successive governments
While the Panglong agreement was a key development that led to Burma's independence, after Aung San's assassination in July 1947, his successor and political ally U Nu failed to live up to the federal principles mandated by Panglong.
The KIO's creation in October 1960, was in part a reaction to Prime Minister U Nu's failure to live up to the Panglong principles. As a mostly Christian people many Kachin, including the KIO's founders, were incensed by U Nu's pledge during the federal election of 1960, that if re-elected he would make Buddhism the state religion.
In August 1961 U Nu made good on his promise to give Burma a state religion. U Nu's discriminatory move provided a wave of young recruits for the KIO's armed insurrection against Burma's central government.
Although the KIO took part in peace talks with the Ne Win regime in 1963, 1972 and 1980-81, none of these negotiations achieved a lasting peace.
Under a cease fire agreement reached by the KIO with Burma's military regime in 1994, the group was given a fair degree of autonomy to run its own affairs in KIO controlled areas of Kachin and northern Shan state. The Burmese military regime however continued to commit serious human rights abuses against ethnic people including many Kachin.
The KIO's 17 year long ceasefire ended in June 2011, following the KIO's refusal to join the Burmese government's proposed border guard force.