Ethnic alliance, govt aim to hold talks in July as clashes continue

Ethnic alliance, govt aim to hold talks in July as clashes continue

A coalition representing 11 of Burma’s ethnic armed groups and the government are planning to hold a new round of talks after months of delays as clashes continue to erupt in Burma’s far north.

In February, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and the government’s Internal Peace Making Work Committee met in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai where they discussed establishing a framework to facilitate a political dialogue.

During the negotiations, the two sides agreed to hold a follow up round of negotiations within two months.

According to the Myanmar Peace Centre’s Hla Maung Shwe, the prospective meeting was delayed in order to prioritise negotiations with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which is a member of the UNFC.

“We had to prioritise discussing the conflict with the KIO – we informed the [UNFC] and they agreed to postpone the follow-up meeting,” said Hla Maung Shwe.

“There is a meeting appointed in early July between work groups from both sides – the follow-up talks would likely follow that.”

In late May, the KIO and the government negotiators met in Kachin state’s capital Myitkyina where they etched out a tentative deal aimed at reducing fighting between the two sides, opening a political dialogue and resettling residents who have been displaced by the fighting.

While the Naypyidaw-backed Myanmar Peace Centre has expressed confidence in putting an end to Burma’s myriad civil wars, renewed fighting between the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, and the military appears to have undermined the recent progress made by the government negotiators.

According to a report published by the AP on Monday, a KIO spokesperson said the negotiations had failed to quell the violence as the two sides have engaged in more than 20 clashes since holding in Myitkyina talks last month.

‘‘It will be correct to say that the government used the opportunity of peace talks to prepare for the next assault,’’ KIO spokesperson La Nan told the AP.

In a report published by the Shan Herald Agency for News last week, the Shan State Army-North, another UNFC member, claimed the military had launched assaults against one of their outposts in clear violation of the ceasefire they signed with Naypyidaw.

During an interview with DVB earlier this month, UNFC spokesperson David Tharckabaw said Thein Sein’s government has failed to prove they’re in control of the country’s massive military.

“The president’s delegation is doing something and the army is independent,” said David Tharckabaw.

“The president has no control over the army, so it does whatever it likes.”

According to government sources, President Thein Sein will hold a conference in the next couple of months with all of the country’s armed rebel groups to discuss a potential political solution aimed at ending the numerous civil conflicts that have rocked Burma since independence.

-David Stout provided additional reporting.

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