Kachin warlord turned Burma MP arms BGF troops at ceremony




Photos have surfaced that appear to show Zahkung Ting Ying (also Za Khun Ting Ring) , longtime leader of the now defunct New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), actively participating in an August 16 ceremony where weapons were distributed to his former NDA-K subordinates now serving in the government's Border Guard Force (BGF).

The photos which also show the veteran rebel commander turned MP sitting alongside senior Burma army officers were released last week by the Kachin National Organization (KNO), a political group representing Kachin exiles. According to the KNO the photos suggest Ting Ying is openly inciting violence and encouraging the armed conflict to continue raising questions about his official role as a member of the government's peace making committee.

In May of this year President Thein Sein appointed Ting Ying to the “Union Peace-making Work Committee” which is led by vice president Dr. Sai Mauk Kham and whose vice chairman is the government's chief negotiator Aung Min. Ostensibly the committee which includes a large number of ethnic representatives from across Burma is tasked with promoting peace with the country's numerous armed ethnic groups.

Ting Ying's former soldiers in the NDA-K are currently deployed in the army's fight against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The ex NDA-K turned BGF troops have reportedly suffered significant casualties over the past year in heavy fighting near Pangwa the group's former headquarters. It has been reported that many of the ex NDA-K are being forced against their will to serve in dangerous frontline positions.

In 2009 the NDA-K officially ceased to exist when its standing army of about 1,000 troops was absorbed by the government's border guard scheme and placed in BGF battalions 1001, 1002 and 1003. The group was the successor to a KIO unit led by Ting Ying that broke-away in 1968 to join forces with the Burma Communist Party (BCP). Ting Ying created the NDA-K following the complete collapse of the BCP in 1989. The NDA-K's ceasefire agreement with Burma's central government enabled the group to profit from the cross border timber trade at Kambaiti and Pangwa.

The November 2010 election saw Ting Ying run unopposed by any candidate from the military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) for a seat in the Amyotha Hluttaw or upper house. He easily defeated his opponent from the National Unity Party (NUP), another military backed party affiliated with the remnants of the Ne Win regime. At the time of the election it was reported that Ting Ying's electoral victory was aided significantly by wide scale ballot stuffing at polling centers in ex NDA-K territory.

Over the past 20 years Ting Ying profited immensely from mining and logging deals involving Chinese business interests operating in NDA-K territory. Ting Ying's large wealth and his reluctance to share the spoils amongst his colleagues was reportedly the cause of long simmering tensions in the NDA-K and several unsuccessful but violent attempts to oust Ting Ying. This includes a December 2004 assassination attempt involving his car and a September 2005 full scale mutiny led by his deputy Layawk Zelum.

According to a detailed report on Kachin state's environmentally destructive timber trade by the UK NGO Global Witness Ting Ying's difficulties with his NDA-K colleagues were exacerbated by a major disagreement over the profits from the Htang Shanghkawng molybdenum mine, a mineral used in the production of steel alloys.

At a pro military public meeting held in Pangwa in May, Ting Ying predicted that government forces will completely “wipeout” the KIO. During the meeting Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung, head of Burma Army’s Northern Regional Military Command, agreed with the former NDA-K chief telling the audience that the army's overwhelming firepower will spell the end of the KIO and its armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Despite these prediction troops from the KIA still control much of countryside surrounding Pangwa including long stretches of the road connecting the Kachin state capital Myitkyina to the Chinese town of Tengchong in western Yunnan.