Powering a conflict: the Kachin Independence Organisation’s hydropower business

For nearly two decades following its 1994 ceasefire, the Kachin Independence Organisation built up a business empire that intertwined formally with the state.

The vehicle for many of these businesses is Buga Co Ltd, which the KIO’s economic department registered with the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration in early 1995.

But after the resumption of conflict in June 2011, many of Buga’s businesses unraveled or were forced into the black economy. A sugar factory in Namatee, Mogaung Township, was forced to stop operations later in 2011. A tourism office at Laiza, where the KIO is based, that sought to encourage visits by Chinese and Myanmar tourists has long ago shuttered. The company has also been forced to scale back its mining concessions, including at jade-rich Hpakant.

But one Buga business has continued to prosper: electricity production and distribution. Since 2007, it has been selling electricity to government-controlled areas of the state under a 20-year agreement struck with the former military regime.

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Ye Mon