A Brief Political Account of the Kachin
The Kachin people, comprising six different ethnic sub-groups, live mainly in north-eastern Burma, as well as parts of China and India. The Kachin in Burma are estimated to number between 1 - 1.5 million. Traditionally hill dwellers subsisting on rotational cultivation of hill rice, they used to be ruled by village and clan chiefs. The territory of Kachin State never came under direct British administration, nor had they been directly under the authority of the Burmese court before the Kachin Hill Tribes Regulation 1895 was introduced. However, many of the areas actually within the orbit of the Regulation were still governed through a system of indirect rule, which relied upon the authority of selected local chiefs and elders for the successful implementation of Government policy.
During British rule of Burma (from 1886 to 1948), most Kachin territory was specially administered as a frontier region (Kachin Hill Regulation 1895); Christianity spread among the Kachin at this time. When Burma gained independence in 1948, the northern mountainous extremity of Burma was designated as Kachin State, with an area of 34,379 square miles. Kachin people also live in Shan State.
After independence, many Kachin grew increasingly dissatisfied with the discriminatory policies of the central Burmese government. This led to the launch in 5th February 1961 of a Kachin armed resistance movement, which grew into one of the largest ethnic resistance forces, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). Several decades of armed conflict ensued, causing displacement of many of the highland Kachin population down to the lowland areas of Kachin State. Today, over 80% of the state’s population live in the plains.
In 1994, the KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military regime, and was granted the right to continue maintaining its own administrative and military infrastructure in certain areas. Two other Kachin armed...
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