Opposition opens office in war-torn north

A leading opposition party in Burma has opened an office in the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina in order, it says, to attempt a mediating role in the ongoing fighting between Burmese troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The conflict is now into its eight week, and shows little sign of easing. Government soldiers are closing in on the group’s Laiza headquarters, and a number of Kachin bases have been shelled in recent days.

Another office is due to be opened in Hpakant, north of Myitkyina, said Bauk Ja, who coordinates the National Democratic Force’s Kachin state operations. He said the move will allow the party, which won 16 seats in last year’s elections, to push for an end to the fighting, which has displaced more than 20,000 people since it began on 9 June.

Khin Maung Swe, a leader of the NDF, urged other political parties to also mediate in the conflict.

“Our party has always pushed for national reconciliation and we would happily accept if we are allowed to engage in political negotiations in the fighting,” he said, adding that they would use “political means” in their negotiations, but did not elaborate on how his would be achieved.

Intense clashes have erupted across areas of Kachin state over the past two months, forcing thousands of refugees to Laiza and into China. Refusals from a multitude of armed ethnic groups to become government-controlled Border Guard Forces have led to parts of Burma’s northern and eastern border regions being engulfed in violence.

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