Kachin State (Jingphaw Mungdaw), is the northernmost state of Burma. It is bordered by China to the north and east; Shan State to the south; and Sagaing Division and India to the west. It lies between north latitude 23° 27' and 28° 25' longitude 96° 0' and 98° 44' . The area of Kachin State is 34,379 sq. miles. The capital of the state is Myitkyina. Other important towns include Bhamo.
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Kachin troops formerly formed a significant part of the Burmese army. With the unilateral abrogation of the Union of Burma constitution by the Ne Win regime in 1962, Kachin forces withdrew and formed the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) under the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Aside from the major towns and railway corridor, Kachin State has been virtually independent from the mid 1960s through 1994, with an economy based on smuggling, jade trade with China and narcotics. After a Myanmar army offensive in 1994 seized the jade mines from the KIO, a peace treaty was signed, permitting continued KIO effective control of most of the State, under aegis of the Myanmar military. This ceasefire immediately resulted in the creation of numerous splinter factions from the KIO and KIA of groups opposed to the peace accord, and the political landscape remains highly unstable.
Traditional Kachin society was based on shifting hill agriculture. Political authority was based on chieftains who depended on support from immediate kinsmen. Considerable attention has been given by anthropologists of the Kachin custom of maternal cousin marriage, wherein it is permissible for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, but not with the father’s sister’s daughter. Traditional religion was animist, but missionary activity since the British period have converted the vast majority of the population to Christianity (notably Baptist and pockets of Roman Catholicism).