The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and government representatives signed a historic seven-point peace agreement on Thursday afternoon, raising hopes that Burma’s bloody northern conflict could finally come to an end.
Rebels and the government agreed to establish monitoring offices, demarcate territory and to launch rehabilitation projects for displaced people across the restive state, according to local observers. It is the most significant step towards peace that has been achieved since a 17-year ceasefire broke down in June 2011.
The talks were overseen by the UN special envoy to Burma Vijay Nambiar, as well as representatives from the ethnic umbrella group the United Nationalities Federal Council.
“The agreement includes [provisions] to continue the political discussion between the government and the KIO, to prevent further clashes while efforts are underway to reduce fighting,” explained Hla Maung Shwe from the government’s Myanmar Peace Centre during a telephone interview with DVB.
He added that monitoring groups and liaison offices will be established to improve communication between the two warring sides, while more third party observers would be considered for inclusion in future peace talks.
The KIO’s armed wing – the Kachin Independence Army – and government troops have been locked in two years of bitter fighting after a 17-year ceasefire fell apart in 2011. Nearly 100,000 people have been uprooted by the violence, and human rights groups have accused both sides of violating the laws of war.
Despite numerous rounds of talks, the KIO has refused to sign a new ceasefire deal with Naypyidaw until the country’s ethnic minorities are granted greater political autonomy. The rebels have also consistently called for international observers to oversee the peace talks.
The talks were held in the state capital of Myitkyina – the first time a meeting between the KIO and state officials has been held in government-controlled territory, which several analysts said was a clear sign that trust was improving between the two sides.