Burma army detains KIO officer in western Kachin state

Two Burma Army's Light Infantry Division No. 66 soldiers take security in Hpakant jade mine, western Kachin state

A civilian official from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and two men he was with were detained by Burma army troops on September 20th in Kamaing sub-township in western Kachin state, according to local people living in the area.

Maran La Hkawng, a KIO vice-administrator for the Gauri area in Kamaing sub-township and two other men he was with Mr. Mangshang Ying Bawm and Mr. Naw Seng, were surrounded and arrested on Saturday morning at about 11 am by a group of 11 Burma army soldiers and other army personnel. The arrest took place at a private home in the Htoi San Yang quarter of Kamaing according to a villager who requested anonymity citing security concerns.

The KIO detainees were brought to the Kamaing military strategic command where they continue to be detained, according to local people.

The arrest was carried out during an operation involving troops from Light Infantry Division No. 66, Infantry Battalion No. 11 led by Col Thant Zin Aung. Also present during the arrest were Military Affairs Security agent Aung Khaing Phyu and Kyaw Swa Aung from the Military Supply and Transportation section, according to a KIO official familiar with the incident who requested anonymity.

The arrest of Maran La Hkawng is likely linked to a disagreement with the KIO over collecting tax from eel fishermen in the area, according to local people. This is the first such known arrest of someone either from the KIO or its armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) since the government allowed mining to resume in Kachin state's jade rich Hpakant area on September 1st.

Three months ago, two KIO officials from Hpakant were arrested by the same Burmese LID No. 66 unit. The LID No. 66 soldiers were officially securing the Myitkyina to Hpakant road. The soldiers captured Kap Maw Zup's civilian administrator, Hpukjang Ze Lum near Hpakant on June 28 and Lt. Maji Brang Seng in Mapin village near Kamaing on June 30.

In August KIO officially requested that the two KIO captives be released however they have yet to be freed and instead have been charged with being associated with the KIO, says Lt-Col Nhpang Naw Bu, a KIO official serving on the joint conflict resolution team who is based at the KIO's Laiza headquarters.

The KIO, a key member of 12 ethnic armed alliance United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) supports the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which the KIO is also a member of. The NCCT is meeting with the Union Peace Working Committee this week in order to reach a ceasefire agreement. The KIO says it wants a genuine federal union that ensures ethnic people's rights of self-determination and national equality.

There has not yet been a ceasefire agreement between the government and the KIO however fighting has significantly dropped in both Kachin and northern Shan states over the past few months.
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