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Ethnic leaders weigh in on Kachin conflict

After the fall of the Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) final hill station outside Laiza last weekend, DVB asked a group of the country’s ethnic minority leaders about the government’s role in the conflict and its impact on national reconciliation in Burma.

Salai Shwe Hka, deputy-chairperson of the Chin National Front

“First, tensions must be eased – the Burmese army has deployed troops from other regions into Kachin territory – the problem wouldn’t have been this huge if they had only used troops based in the region. But they reinforced with troops from other regions in Burma. The Kachin saw that as a military invasion, prompting them to defend themselves. So if the [government] genuinely wishes to settle the issue; they should withdraw the military forces back to where they were before the [conflict began] on 9 June 2011.”

Nai Hongsa, general secretary of the New Mon State Party

“Apparently the government forces have besieged Laiza and they need to show generosity by withdrawing troops and give the [Kachin] a way out. The ceasefire, although not in place at the moment, will happen if they withdraw their troops to some distance away and this will make way for the political dialogue. We think it will be more reasonable to hold political dialogue with the UNFC [United Nationalities Federal Council] since they will not only discuss the Kachin but all ethnic nationalities.”

Aye Maung, chairperson of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party

“Both sides must withdraw troops to the positions they were before the conflict broke out and they should discuss peace. The president is saying [they are not conducting] an offensive war, but it does not [look] like it when they are reinforcing troops and using aircrafts. The government needs to be transparent about this and hold a press conference to explain how this isn’t an offensive war.”

Sai Aik Pao, chairperson of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party

“We are falling behind other ASEAN member countries because there is no peace in our country. All the people, the government and the military should work together to bring peace.”

Aye Thar Aung, leader of the former Arakan League for Democracy

“The offensive war in Kachin state and use of aircrafts is a hindrance to the peace making effort in the country – it leads to mistrust, making it impossible to build peace. The government must announce a nationwide ceasefire and facilitate political dialogue.”

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