RANGOON — A representative of an alliance of ethnic armed groups said they have agreed to hold a high-level meeting in Rangoon with Minister Aung Min next week in an effort to resume Burma’s stalled nationwide ceasefire process.
“We have a plan to meet … before Christmas. We did not yet set a date but we will meet in Yangon,” said Khun Okkar, a senior member of the National Ceasefire Coordination Team, which represents an alliance of 16 ethnic armed groups.
The meeting will be an important moment for the sides to assess if they can resolve the fallout of a Burma Army surprise attack on the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Nov. 19, when the military fired a number of artillery rounds into the grounds of a KIA training camp near Laiza where dozens of young cadets were exercising.
The attack injured more than a dozen cadets and killed 23, most of them from rebel groups allied to the KIA, such as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army.
The KIA subsequently cancelled its monthly meetings in Myitkyina with the Burma Army and alleged the army had not made an effort to properly explain the attack.
Khun Okkar said the NCCT expected answers over the attack from Aung Min and army representatives during the upcoming meeting, adding that the minister had only touched upon the incident in a recent letter to the NCCT.
“He gave some explanations in his letter, but not enough. We are not satisfied with his statement. Therefore, we decided to have a meeting as we wanted to talk more about this,” Khun Okkar said. “We will ask more questions and negotiate with them [about the nationwide ceasefire] at the meeting.”
Tensions in northern Burma have risen since the attack, and clashes between the army and Kachin, Palaung and Kokang rebels have become increasingly frequent. In recent months, the nationwide ceasefire process had already hit a deadlock as differences over key issues, such as political autonomy for ethnic regions, could not be bridged.
Khun Oo Reh, vice-chairman of the Karenni National Progressive Party and a NCCT member, said the government and army were obliged to offer an explanation for last month’s deadly attack before the nationwide ceasefire process could resume.
“We could not ignore the case of killings in Laiza. We could not focus only having meeting without solving the case of killings. We need to find a solution for this,” he said.
“For our ethnics’ side… I feel that we made a lot of compromises with them already, which cannot do that anymore” after the attack, said Khun Oo Reh.