The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) on Monday sent a letter to the Burmese government requesting a meeting on May 10 in order to lessen tensions between the sides, after a number of deadly clashes in recent weeks.
The KIO sent a letter to the government chief peace negotiator, Minister Aung Min, asking for a bilateral meeting in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina. The Kachin rebels and government officials have not had such a meeting since October last year.
Kachin Independence Army (KIA) commander Gen. Gun Maw told reporters in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that the KIO requested a bilateral meeting “as we want to ensure [progress] in the ongoing nationwide ceasefire discussion.”
“The fighting in Kachin and northern Shan State could cause tension during the nationwide ceasefire talks,” said Gun Maw. “We need to rethink of our role and participation in the process,”
The KIO also suggested that Vijay Nambiar, the Special Adviser on Burma for the UN Secretary-General, Chinese Special Envoy for Asian Affairs Wang Yingfan and central committee members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) should attend the May 10 meeting.
The KIO and an ethnic Palaung group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), are the only two armed groups that have not yet signed a bilateral ceasefire with Naypyidaw. The Shan State Army-North has also been engaged in recurrent clashes with the army, despite the fact that is has a bilateral ceasefire with Naypyidaw.
The KIA and TNLA have been engaged in deadly fighting with government troops in the mountains on the border of Kachin and northern Shan states. The Burma Army has launched a number of offensive operations in Kachin State’s Mansi Township that has reportedly caused about 5,000 Kachin civilians to flee in recent weeks, with 1,000 of them fleeing across the border into China.
Burmese state-owned media have reported that 14 government troops and eight rebels were killed during the operations on April 4. The TNLA claimed it killed 10 Burmese soldiers during attacks on army columns in Namkham Township last week.
The NCCT, which represents 16 ethnic armies, including the KIO, held a meeting in Chiang Mai on Monday and Tuesday, where they proposed another round of nationwide ceasefire talks with the government in the last week of May.
In early April, the NCCT, government negotiators and senior Burma Army commanders started a new approach to the talks, by attempting to jointly draw up a single text for a nationwide ceasefire. The army reportedly told the NCCT it was committed to completing a deal before August 1.
However, the work was complicated by new demands by the Burma Army for the incorporation of its own six-point statement into any future nationwide ceasefire deal, ethnic leaders have complained. The statement repeats demands the army has made earlier, such as that all ethnic armed groups come under central command of the military and that all parties respect the 2008 Constitution.
Nai Hong Sar, the head of the NCCT, said Tuesday that it wants to “meet with the government to learn the government’s views, as the military’s proposal [in the last meeting] is unacceptable.”
“We are not still clear on how the government views the military’s statement for the single text, and our proposal on federal policy and autonomy for our states to be included in the draft [nationwide ceasefire],” he added.
Any nationwide ceasefire agreement is supposed to be followed by a political dialogue in which ethnic groups’ demands for autonomy and a share of natural resources and other complicated issues would be discussed. The dialogue process is expected to take years to complete.
The NCCT has said it wants guarantees that this dialogue will start shortly after the accord is signed.