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Gen. Gun Maw, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the group’s chief negotiator, has renewed an offer to the US government to become involved in Burma’s ongoing peace process.
Speaking in an interview with Reuters in Washington DC on Monday, Gun Maw said he made the request to US officials last week, and that the invitation was first extended to the United States, Britain, China and the United Nations in February last year.
“We would like to have the US present at the peace process as a witness, so this agreement will become strong,” he said. “At present, we are still asking the US to be involved. Whether they will be, we don’t know yet.”
To date, only China has played a mediating role, attending and hosting negotiations between the Kachin side and a Burmese government delegation at the Sino-Burmese border last year following the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire in June 2011.
The Kachin rebels are due to hold another round of negotiations with the Burmese government next month. A bilateral ceasefire agreement between the two sides would be seen as pivotal in the government’s quest to establish a nationwide peace accord.
“The challenge is that from the government side they would purely like to sign a ceasefire, but from the KIO [Kachin Independence Organisation] side, in the ceasefire agreement there has to be a future plan involved and what will follow after,” Gun Maw told Reuters. “For example, after the ceasefire, there will be a discussion on the building of a federal union and on the rights of the ethnic groups. We would like to have guarantees.” The KIO is the political wing of the KIA.
The US State Department has not as yet made any response to the offer to mediate in Burma’s peace process, nor has the Burmese government commented on the suggestion.
Gun Maw was also quoted as saying he wished to see Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi involved in the political dialogue.
During his 12-day stay in US, the Kachin general met with: US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power; Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman; Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Rick Barton; Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski; Senior Advisor for Burma Judith Cefkin; US Congressmen; officials from the National Security Council, USAID and Department of Defense; and officials from the United Nations including Special Adviser Vijay Nambiar, according to Kachinland News.
On Saturday, following his talks with US officials, Gun Maw met with representatives of the Kachin and Chin communities.
More than 200 representatives from 15 Kachin communities around the US and two representatives from the Kachin Canadian Association attended a seminar where Gun Maw explained the substance of his visit to the US, and laid out his views on the current peace process, as well as the ongoing conflict in parts of Kachin and Shan states.
He then proceeded to meet with representatives from 23 Chin Christian communities in a Baptist Church in Gaithersburg, MD, Kachinland News reported.
Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary Malinowski, who met with the Kachin rebel leader in Washington, said in a statementreleased on Friday: “The Kachin and American people share ties going back to WWII. Many Americans owed their lives to the Kachin fighters who guided General Stillwell’s men in the high altitudes and thick jungles of Burma’s upper Kachin State, and helped Allied forces secure victory in Southeast Asia.“A Burmese government of the people, by the people, and for the people will strive on to finish the work it is in”
“But following Burma’s independence, and especially after a military coup in 1962, its armed forces proved unwilling to unite Burma’s diverse ethnic nationalities by democratic consent and unable to bond them by brute force. The result has been decades of war and division, with millions of civilians displaced. In Kachin State, abundant natural resources – gold, jade, teak, timber, gems, to name just a few – have been drivers of this conflict rather than sources of development.”
At the invitation of Malinowski, Gun Maw also visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The US assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, is reported saying: “We hope that the words written there, commemorating our own nation’s perseverance through civil war, will soon be spoken of Burma: that a Burmese government of the people, by the people, and for the people will strive on to finish the work it is in; to bind up its nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among its people, and with all nations.”