Burma’s government has accepted the majority of proposals made by the Kachin Independence Army during ceasefire talks today and yesterday in the Chinese border town of Ruili.
The two sides have been engaged in negotiations to bring about an end to fighting in northern Burma, which has displaced tens of thousands of civilians since it began in June last year.
Brig-Gen Guan Maw, the KIA’s deputy chief of staff, told DVB that areas of contention still remain, particularly over the status of Burmese army outposts close to Kachin rebel territory.
Both sides however agreed to release prisoners of war and convene formal talks that could pave the way for Kachin autonomy, in what appears to mark the strongest signal yet that progress is being made in the conflict–torn region.
The current talks are the tenth at brokering peace in the state, although conflict is ongoing. Kachin officials said earlier this week that clashes have broken out nearly every day across southern Kachin state and northern Shan state since the last set of talks in mid January.
The KIA wants to prioritise its future role in Burma’s political affairs in the ceasefire talks, although the government is reluctant to jump the gun on this. It says the negotiations should focus first on ending fighting and allowing the KIA to set up liaison offices.
The group says wants any formal ceasefire agreement to be witnessed by international monitors, signalling the distrust many ethnic armies hold towards Naypyidaw.
The Kachin have warned that a ceasefire alone will not solve the conflict in Kachin state, which can only be resolved if the government withdraws troops from the region. But with the region rich in natural resources, including jade and hydropower, the chances of that happening are questionable, given the heavy militarisation that historically accompanies energy projects in Burma.