‘Conflict Negotiators’ Meet in Myitkyina

By Lawi Weng 29 May 2014

RANGOON — The first meeting of a new commission to negotiate during armed conflicts in northern Burma met in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina on Wednesday.

Five representatives from the Burmese government and five from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) are part of the Conflict Negotiation Commission, which formed during bilateral peace talks between both sides earlier this month.

Members of the commission are tasked with working together to reduce fighting between the KIO’s armed group and the Burmese army, as the government continues to push for a nationwide ceasefire accord with all armed groups.

Lamai Gum Ja, a member of the KIO advisory technical team, said Wednesday’s meeting was mostly an introduction.

“This was the first time we were getting to know the other members involved in the commission,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“We also talked about how to negotiate systematically if there is conflict. Third, we discussed how to communicate with each other when fighting breaks out. Finally, we talked about setting up an office for the commission.”

He said KIO representatives also suggested that government soldiers reduce hostilities by informing the Kachin army before entering their territory.

Fighting is ongoing between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese army in Kachin State and northern Shan State. In April, an escalation of clashes forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes. They join more than 100,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict since 2011.

In early May, KIA leaders requested a meeting with Burmese peace negotiators. During a meeting in Myitkyina on May 13, both sides agreed to form the Conflict Negotiation Commission.

Col. Naing Aung from the Burmese army’s northern command said the commission would meet during the first week of every month, starting in July.

“We also set up contact points to meet at any time if fighting breaks out and there is an urgent need to solve the problem as soon as possible,” he said.

He said troops from the northern command aimed to provide security on the ground.

“But some KIA troops misunderstand our troop movements and attack our troops,” he said.

He said the Burmese army would inform the KIA of future troop movements in KIA territory.