The Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) held a two-and-a-half hour meeting in the border town of Dali in China’s Yunnan Province on Feb.1 focused on de-escalating their conflict in Tanai and other parts of Kachin State.
The Tatmadaw delegation was led by Lieutenant General Tun Tun Naung and the KIA delegation was led by General N’Ban La, the group’s chairman. The meeting was brokered by China’s Special Envoy for Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang.
At the meeting the Tatmadaw demanded that the KIA remove its Battalion 14 headquarters in Tanai and its Battalion 12 and 27 outposts in Mansi in order to de-escalate the situation. The Irrawaddy reporter Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint interviewed KIO/KIA information officer Colonel Naw Bu about the meeting.
What was discussed at the meeting?
I don’t know about the meeting minutes. But I heard that they discussed de-escalating the clashes. So they must also have negotiated the deployment of troops.
Did Lt-Gen Tun Tun Naung come as the representative of the Myanmar army chief?
Yes, I heard that he represented army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
What reason did the Tatmadaw give for the removal of KIA Battalion 14 from Tanai?
They said illegal mines are being operated there. There are amber and gold mines in the areas controlled by Battalion No. 14. They asked us to remove our outposts in order to prevent illegal mining. They want to control the area.
We heard the KIA and Tatmadaw had a business partnership during the 17-year truce until clashes broke out again in 2011. So why did the Tatmadaw ask the KIA to remove Battalion 14 now?
I don’t know about the inside issue. But as everyone knows, nobody can do business such as gold, amber and jade mining without the involvement of the Tatmadaw and the government. The KIA alone can’t contact foreign businessmen to come [to the mines]. I mean the KIA can’t do that without tactical commanders, brigade commanders and battalion commanders on the [Tatmadaw’s] front lines. The two sides might have some disputes about sharing profits, and that’s why [the Tatmadaw] is complaining about the legality of those mines now.
Tanai is on the Ledo road and in the economic corridor linking India and China. Some speculate that the Tatmadaw is trying to remove the KIA from there for this reason. What would you say to that?
Every place where clashes occur is economically linked to China. The Ledo road links China and India, and the Tatmadaw of course wants to clear the area. Other main roads such as Namkham and Bhamo are also set for upgrades in cooperation with China. So the Tatmadaw has to conduct clearance operations. We can conclude from an economic point of view that the clashes happened because of these factors.
At the meeting, the Tatmadaw refused to recognize the KIA’s new brigades — Brigade 5, 6, 7, 8. What is the KIA’s response?
The Tatmadaw views those brigades that did not exist when we signed the 1994 ceasefire as new brigades. But fierce clashes have occurred since 2011. So we have expanded some brigades, which they don’t recognize. They don’t like us deploying Brigade 4 and Brigade 6 in the Kachin sub-state in northern Shan State. They insisted that those brigades be moved to Kachin State.
Will the Feb. 1 meeting have any impact on clashes on the ground?
I don’t think it will have much impact. But there have been hardly any clashes since then. However, further discussion will be needed.
Did the Tatmadaw delegation talk about the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] during the meeting? The KIA has upheld the Panglong pledges.
The Tatmadaw asked us to engage in political dialogue only after signing the NCA. They implied that some of the provisions in the Panglong agreement are no longer up to date. But to build a union the Panglong is necessary and basic. So we will engage in political dialogue based on the Panglong agreement.
What did the KIA learn about the position of the Tatmadaw during the meeting?
Militarily and politically, the Tatmadaw will need to consider the points we have made. I think they now understand our positions.
Does it depend on the Tatmadaw for the KIA to hold political talks with the government?
During U Thein Sein’s administration, the government was the Tatmadaw and the Tatmadaw was the government. Now, the government and the Tatmadaw are different entities, and our discussions with the government on military issues have not achieved good results. That’s why we have talked to the Tatmadaw about military issues and the de-escalation of clashes. But to discuss politics we have to talk with the government.
What would you like to say to Kachin people about the KIA’s meeting with the Tatmadaw?
We met to discuss the de-escalation of clashes, not politics. More meetings must be held continuously. To end the civil war, the only way through is political dialogue. There won’t be any good answers without dialogue.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.