Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Future peace talks between the KIO and Myanmar Government not yet scheduled

Posted by: PNA
Post Date: 3 March 2013

After what was perceived by many as a leap in the direction of reconciliation, future discourse between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Myanmar government is on hold. Senior officials of the KIO have expressed uncertainty in arranging the next round of peace talks that will help quell violence in Northern Kachin State and Eastern Shan state. 

After talks between Myanmar's government and the rebel Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in Ruili, China, on February 4, a glimpse of hope after 17 months of bloody conflict was rendered. Following the peace talks, tentative arrangements were made in order to facilitate further dialogue between the two sides in hopes of reaching a peace agreement. During the Ruili meeting major breakthroughs were achieved on key issues such as strengthening communications, easing tensions, and holding further talks before the end of February. 

The subsequent rounds of talks, which were tentatively scheduled for late February, are now expected to take place in March, although the exact date has not yet been determined.

Hesitation in scheduling a definitive date, is due in large part  to the KIO’s resistance to hold talks within the country of Myanmar.  Representatives from the the group, believe a neutral ground would be a better venue for brokering discussions. Government officials would like the talks on Myanmar  soil - something that the KIO has expressed distrust in.

A major area of contention in the negotiations is the government's refusal to recognize a 1947 Panlong agreement signed between General Aung San and ethnic leaders, including the Kachin, that granted Burma's ethnic minorities  partial autonomy.

Yet, it is the Myanmar military's refusal to withdraw troops from territories recently captured during the fighting, that is the main sore spot in the peace dealings. Military forces have failed to reduce their presence along the front line, leaving many Kachin with the suspicion that despite reduced fighting in conflict areas, an offensive attack on the KIO may be imminent.

Such suspicions were confirmed on February 24, when military trucks were used in eastern Kachin state to send arms, food, and supplies to troops stationed near Loije - a region close to the KIO occupied town of  Mai Ja Yang.  Supplies were also sent to reinforce positions  in the recently (military) captured La Ja Yang area, which borders the KIO de facto capital of Laiza.

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the KIO’s affiliate army, exchanged fire with army units from Infantry Battalion 200 the following day in Pannwar region. Sources report government forces lost a confirmed total of  8 men including 2 lieutenants.

Fighting, probed by military aggression, has also persisted with other ethnic groups in neighboring states. The Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) recently appealed to President Thein Sein to resolve issues between Shan troops and the Myanmar government army. The conflict between the SSPP/SSA and Myanmar army began last month, when the government army demanded the withdrawal of SSPP/SSA troops from Loi Lang base in Tangyang Township in Shan State - at which time the SSPP/SSA refused.

Despite the overall recent slowdown in active conflicts throughout the country,  fighting continues and further negotiations to draft a new agreement are needed; although informal discussions between the KIO and the Myanmar government  have taken place in past weeks. Myanmar government representatives met senior KIO officials in Thailand’s Chiang Mai  last week, as part of an initiative between the government and the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of Myanmar's armed ethnic groups which includes the KIO.

Though some communication has been established, neither party has confirmed a date for future rounds of peace talks to end the conflict between the KIO/KIA and the Myanmar government.


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