Long time New Democratic Army-Kachin leader (NDAK) Zahkung Ting Ying (also spelled Za Khun Ting Ring) has barred candidates from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) from campaigning in territory he has long ruled over in north eastern Kachin state.
According to an article from the Irrawaddy magazine published yesterday, Zahkung Ting Ying sent a letter dated September 22nd to the NLD declaring that the NLD's candidates weren't welcome to campaign in townships that include territory ceded to the NDAK in the group's 1989 ceasefire with the central government.
The letter claimed that these areas were “not ready to accept such public mobilization for the campaign”. According to the letter “this area is not yet under the government’s reforms”, something that appears to suit the 70 something year old NDAK chief just fine.
The NDAK's founder and long-time head was elected in the 2010 election as a member of the national parliament representing a constituency that covers a corner of north eastern Kachin state that he has dominated for decades. He won the seat for upper Upper House constituency No. 5 as independent after running unopposed by the ruling USDP and triumphed over his only opponent from the National Unity Party (NUP), after reports of ballot stuffing and widespread voter intimidation.
The move to bar the NLD who are also running a candidate against his son Kachin state legislature representative Zahkung Ying Sau, is the latest development in the NDAK's chief's decades long domination of his corner of north eastern Kachin state.
The NDAK (also written NDA-K) was the successor to a Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) unit led by Zahkung Ting Ying's that broke-away from the KIO in 1968 to join forces with the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). In 1989 following the complete collapse of the (CPB), Ting Ying with the support of troops under his command created the NDAK, quickly reaching a ceasefire with the central government.
The NDAK's deal with Burma's military regime resulted in the establishment of Kachin state Special Region No. 1 and enabled the group to profit from the cross border timber trade at Kambaiti and Pangwa during a period that saw the vast clear cutting of forests in Kachin state. Much of the NDAK territory remains bare of trees thanks to the massive level of timber cutting that took place on Ting Ying's watch.
Zahkung Ting Ying continues to hold a significant amount of influence in what was Special Region No 1. even though the NDAK officially disbanded in November 2009. At the time the group transformed into a BGF it was thought to have some 1,000 troops. The ex NDA-K soldiers were re-assigned to among four different BGF units based at Pangwa (Chipwe Township), Kambaiti (Sadung Township) and Hpimaw (Tsawlaw Township).
BGF units comprised of ex NDAK forces were repeatedly involved in clashes with the KIO in 2012 and 2013. Most of the clashes also involved Burma army units fighting alongside the ex NDA-K troops. During a public rally in Pangwa in May 2012 Ting Ying gave a speech in which he predicted that government forces would “wipe out” the KIO.
Over the past 20 years Tin Ying is believed to have profited immensely from mining and logging concessions deals involving Chinese business interests operating in NDA-K territory. This includes the operating of the Htang Shanghkawng molybdenum mine, a mineral used in the production of steal alloys. 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 NDAK and several unsuccessful but violent attempts to oust Ting Ying as the head of the group. He survived a December 2004 assassination attempt involving his car and a September 2005 full scale mutiny led by his deputy Layawk Zelum.
In a leaked 2005 US embassy cable published by Wikileaks, US diplomats called the NDAK a group that “resembles nothing more than a tightly-controlled business cartel.” The cable continued, “By all accounts, the outfit’s sole political objective now is to maintain sovereignty over the economic concessions it garnered in 1989 in one of the Burmese regime’s first cease-fire arrangements.”
A report released by the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT) last year titled “Silent Offensive - How Burma Army strategies are fuelling the Kachin drug crisis”, alleged that Border Guard Force (BGF) units comprised of troops formally affiliated with the NDAK are heavily involved in the production of opium in eastern Kachin state's Chipwe, Sadung and Tsawlaw townships where Ting Ying has barred the NLD from campaigning.
The report quotes local people from the area describing an abundance of poppy plants being grown. “After the war, the number of fields in mountain areas under the NDA-K (now Border Guard Forces) has increased greatly. They easily get workers and also pay them very little. People from the (IDP) camp are now working in the opium fields,” said a social worker based in refugee camp on the China-Burma border near Sadung who was quoted in the report.
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