Senior leaders of the Karen National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) met to talk peace and war in northern Burma’s Kachin State on Wednesday.
Major General Gun Maw, deputy chief of staff for the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said the group invited the KNU delegation, led by General Mutu Say Poe, to visit the KIO headquarters in Waignmaw Township’s Laiza to discuss the future of the country’s peace process.
The KNU is nominally the strongest ethnic armed group among the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatory groups, while the KIO is considered an approximate counterpart among members of the United Nationalities Federal Council, a coalition of NCA non-signatories.
“We invited the KNU delegation during the meeting with the UNFC chairperson in Chiang Mai, [Thailand], as we see that it would be a good idea to invite the [KNU] to meet with our advisory teams in Laiza, comprised of public members, and to share opinions on the situation right now with the peace process and how we should proceed with it,” said Gun Maw.
He said the groups agreed hold similar meetings in future and keep each other updated on the latest developments in the peace process.
Than Soe Naing, a political analyst, said the KNU and KIO may be in talks to get the latter on board with the upcoming Union peace summit, dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Conference by the National League for Democracy government.
“The KNU today is trusted by both the Burmese military commander-in-chief as well as State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Than Soe Naing. “The upcoming national peace conference, without participation by NCA non-signatory groups led by the KIO, would be rather meaningless and it seems everyone is doing what they can to avoid that.”
A joint statement at the end of Wednesday’s meeting said the KNU and KIO agreed to continue their efforts to bring about peace in Burma.
It has been years since serious conflict flared between the Burma Army and KNU, while Kachin State has been a theatre of war between the government and KIA since 2011, when the two sides’ bilateral ceasefire broke down. The conflict, more than five years old, has displaced nearly 100,000 civilians.