Party of Kachin warlord vows to avoid intimidating rivals 

The party of the warlord who controls Kachin state’s Special Region 1 has vowed to allow rival candidates to campaign freely in the area, five years after NLD members were attacked while campaigning there. 

Zakhung Ting Ying leads the Kachin Border Guard Force, which was formed out of the New Democratic Army – Kachin (NDA-K) in 2009 when the militia struck a peace deal with the military.

He is also the patron of the New Democratic Party – Kachin (NDP), which was founded in 2019. His son, Za Hkon Ying Sau, is the party’s vice chair. 

The party is vying to win eight out of 15 seats in the region, which borders China, and is fielding candidates in Chipwe, Tsawlaw, and Waingmaw, where it enjoys the most influence, as well as N Jang Yang.

The party is based in Chipwe township in Pangwa in the northernmost part of Kachin and has about 8,000 members.

Zahkung Ting Ying won an Upper House seat in Kachin as an independent in the 2015 election. But was removed from his post the following year after election officials said he intimidated rival candidates.

The month before the November 2015 poll around 30 men stormed the room where a group of NLD members and campaigners were sleeping in Chipwe. They smashed projectors, speakers and motorbikes and hit NLD members in the face, a witness told The Irrawaddy at the time.

Weeks earlier Zahkung Ting Ying issued a statement ordering the NLD not to campaign in the region. He denied being involved in the attack but the Union Election Commission concluded that he had ordered them. 

NDP members setting up a campaign sign board in Chipwe township, Kachin on September 27 (NDP/Facebook)

Ting Sau, the NDP’s chair and a former senior commander for the NDA-K, told Myanmar Now that this year Border Guard Forces and local militias had been ordered to refrain from disturbing other parties’ campaigns.  

“We don’t need to speak ill of other parties. We’ve requested the strategists and the party personnel to just focus on our own party,” he told Myanmar Now. 

“We asked them to refrain from doing anything bad, without understanding the election laws, which led to the removal of our patron in the past,” he added.  

Although Zahkung Ting Ying is not competing for a seat this year, his son is defending his State Parliament seat in Chipwe township’s Constituency 2.

Za Hkon Ying Sau won the seat for the now defunct Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State (UDPKS) in both the 2010 and 2015 elections. This year he will represent the NDP, whose new candidates include some of his former opponents. 

S Bran Nan, the NPD candidate running in Waingmaw township, is a former NLD member.

He said he left the NLD for the NDP because the latter had more influence in some parts of the Special Region 1, where the NLD does not have access.

“I believe it’s more efficient to work for regional development if you’re involved in the regional party,” he said.

The NDP’s candidates (NDP/Facebook)

The military-backed USDP has stepped aside in two of the constituencies where the NDP is competing, though Ting Sau said there was no alliance here. 

“There are no official alliances, but the leading figures are always connected with military affairs, and we ventured into politics after we negotiated peace deals with them. So, of course, there are some ties,” he said.

Special Region 1 sits on the China-Myanmar border and is home to the Law Waw, Lashi, Lisu, Zaiwa, and Rawang peoples, among whom Zahkung Ting Ying and his family have major influence.

Zahkung Ting Ying, along with Layawk Zelum, were leaders of the Law Waw and Lashi people before the ceasefire with the military and served at the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) as young officers.

Zahkung Ting Ying co-founded the NDA-K to fight the Tatmdaw in the 1990s. In 2009 he controversially agreed to convert the group into a Border Guard Force as part of a peace deal, bringing the group, at least officially, under the control of the Tatmadaw. 

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