Kachin rebels, govt to hold new round of talks in Burma

Kachin rebels, govt to hold new round of talks in Burma

The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Burmese government are tipped to resume union-level peace talks at the end of the month in the Kachin state capital, according to mediators.

Lamai Gum Ja of the Kachin State Peace Creation Group said a meeting between the KIO and the government’s Peace Making Work Committee led by President Office’s Minister Aung Min is set to take place around 28 May in Kachin state’s Myitkyina.

“The meeting is being planned at the Manaw grounds in [Myitkyina] and it is about 85 percent likely to happen,” said Lamai Gum Ja.

“Roughly, it aims to discuss the opening of a monitoring office at the frontlines and to continue the political dialogue.”

The two sides held talks in February and March this year in the Chinese border town of Ruili following a massive dry season offensive that led to the fall of several Kachin hill stations near the rebel stronghold in Laiza.

While the KIO and the government planned to hold talks sooner, the Kachin have continued to push for international observers to attend further negotiations.

Min Zaw Oo of the Myanmar Peace Centre said the location of the upcoming talks in the Kachin state capital illustrated the increase in trust between the KIO and the government.

“It is according to both sides’ [requests] to hold the meeting in Myitkyina, which signifies the mutual-trust between them has improved. Previously, the talks were held outside of the country due to the increase in tensions,” said Min Zaw Oo.

The KIO has been locked in nearly two years of bitter fighting with government troops after a 17-year ceasefire collapsed in 2011. During the siege of Laiza, the military relied on airstrikes, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery to dislodge the rebels in what was one of the largest offensives launched against ethnic rebels by the military.

The government has continually pushed for the signing of a new ceasefire with the KIO, but the rebels are adamant that greater political rights for the country’s ethnic minorities must be addressed before a new deal is inked.

According to the KIO’s Information Committee member colonel Yaw Hton, small skirmishes with government forces continue to break out in northern Shan state’s Muse where the Kachin Independence Army’s Brigade-4 is stationed.

The talks come as the Burmese military has increasingly targeted multiple ceasefire groups in eastern and northern Burma. The Shan State Army-South, the Shan State Army-North and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army have all engaged in numerous skirmishes with government troops, despite the fact that they have all signed separate truces with Naypyidaw.

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