By NAW NOREEN
Burmese officials have accepted an invitation by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) to resume peace negotiations with rebels in the troubled northern state.
The government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) said it will speak with members of the KIO to try to resolve the ongoing conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states, which has displaced thousands of civilians and killed at least 22 soldiers since early April.
On Tuesday, the KIO sent a letter to the UPWC requesting that the two sides meet on 10 May in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina. The KIO’s vice-chief of staff, Maj-Gen Gun Maw, has warned that the conflict could “create more tensions in the nationwide ceasefire talks”.
The letter also requested the presence of several third-party observers including the UN Special Advisor Vijay Nambiar, Chinese envoy Wan Yingfan, and representatives of other ethnic armed groups.
“The UPWC has responded to the KIO but has yet to decide on a date,” said Hla Maung Shwe, a representative of the Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC). He added that the meeting will likely be held in advance of nationwide ceasefire talks planned for 19-20 May.
The MPC is a government-backed initiative established to mediate between the UPWC — the Union’s peace negotiation body — and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents 13 ethnic armed groups in the peace process.
Combat resumed between the Burmese army and the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, in early April, shortly after the UPWC and NCCT agreed on a long-awaited outline for a nationwide ceasefire agreement.
Ethnic voices and pro-democracy leaders have resoundingly chided the violence as a threat to the nation’s historic yet protracted peace process; members of the Karen National Union, the United Wa State Army and the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS) have all made public appeals for an immediate political solution.
“The government needs to be honest about whether they genuinely want a democratic federal union or not,” said Mya Aye of 88GPOS. “I believe that more openness from the government will ease up doubts from the ethnic groups.”