Officials from the political wing of the warring Kachin Independence Army met with Burmese representatives yesterday in a further push for an end to fighting in the northern state.
The two sides met in the Chinese town of Ruili on the border with Burma, the second time Kachin officials have held talks with the government in the space of two weeks.
Few details of the meeting have yet emerged, according the spokesperson of the Kachin Independence Organisation, La Nan. The delegation is expected to brief Kachin officials today.
But Nay Zin Latt, a political advisor to Burmese President Thein Sein, told DVB yesterday that negotiations towards an end to months of often brutal fighting “is very progressive now … and I think [the conflict] will be settled in the near future”.
Up to 40,000 civilians are estimated to have been displaced by the conflict since June, while local rights groups have documented multiple cases of rape and extra-judicial killings by Burmese troops. The KIA’s refusal to become a government-controlled Border Guard Force provided the key catalyst for fighting.
While talks with the Kachin remain at a very nascent stage, other ethnic armies in Burma who have fought against government forces this year are closer to signing ceasefire agreements.
Following discussions with the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) a week ago, the group’s spokesperson Major Sai Lo Hseng said that both sides had agreed “in principal” to an end to fighting, and would sign on the dotted line soon.
They mark perhaps the strongest signal yet that a truce is on the horizon, following 15 years of fighting between both sides during which the SSA-S has weathered factional fighting with its once junta-aligned counterpart, the Shan State Army-North, and a gradual loss of territory.
The Burmese have appointed Railway Minister Aung Min to spearhead dialogue with ethnic armies in recent months in a bid to end decades of conflict in the country’s frontier regions.
Talks yesterday with the KIO coincided with a visit to Beijing by Burmese army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who met with China’s leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping. Political analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw told DVB that the timing of both events was likely coincidence, but that Beijing may have probed the state of conflict along its border, which has forced thousands of Kachin refugees into China.
Additional reporting by Joseph Allchin.