Myanmar’s Peace Commission Invites Kachin Rebels to Negotiating Table

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The Myanmar government’s Peace Commission has invited the rebel Kachin Independence Organization whose army is engaged in hostilities with the government military to the commercial capital Yangon for peace negotiations, KIO vice chairman General Gwan Maw said Wednesday.

Government peace envoy Tin Myo Win “told us in his letter to come to Yangon if we want to have political talks,” Gwan Maw told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

He also said the KIO, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) replied that it has long wished to hold, a message it has sent to the government through the Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) under the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups that did not sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the government in October 2015.

“We had written before [to the government] to iron out our misunderstandings, and we had wanted to receive a reply about that,” he said.

“We want to discuss any particular topic that concerns the KIO, but right now we want talk about [the government] calling us terrorists and about the ongoing military offensives,” he said. “After that we can choose other topics for talks.”

The KIA is one of four ethnic militias that banded together to form the Northern Alliance, which launched coordinated attacks on Nov. 20 on government and military targets in northern Shan state and the 105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China.

The group’s other members are the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The Northern Alliance said last week that it wanted to participate in peace talks with the government slated for February, but demanded that delegates from China and another ethnic militia, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), be permitted to attend as witnesses.

The government is gearing up for another round of peace talks expected in February in the ongoing 21st-Century Panglong Conference, an initiative spearheaded by State Counselor and de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi to bring peace and national reconciliation to Myanmar after decades of ethnic separatist civil wars.

The first 21st-Century Panglong Conference meeting was held late last August and early September to bring armed ethnic groups to the negotiating table, though no agreement was reached.

Reported by Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.