Ethnic Groups Want to Hold Kachin Peace Meeting Abroad

By Nyein Nyein 22 January 2013

A coalition of Burma’s armed ethnic groups said it wants to meet with Burmese government peace negotiators in a foreign country early next month in order to negotiate an end to the Kachin conflict.

Naing Han Tha, a leading member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), said the group and the government had been discussing the tentative plan for some time, adding that it has yet to be confirmed.

The UNFC last met with the government’s Peace Committee, led by Minister Aung Minh, in November. Another meeting had been scheduled for January, but it was postponed after the fighting between the KIA and the government escalated in late December.

The UNFC is a coalition that represents 11 ethnic militias in Burma, including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). All, except the KIA, currently have a ceasefire with the government

The KIA said on Monday that it sent a letter to the government stating that it would only hold ceasefire talks through the UNFC. A government spokesperson said the government was considering the proposal.

Naing Han Tha, who is a member of the New Mon State Party, said the UNFC preferred that any meeting with the government would be held abroad, so that the safety of some of its representatives could be guaranteed.

“If we meet, it would be in a third country, such as Thailand,” he said. “Minister Aung Min invited us to hold talks in Burma, but we prefer to hold it outside the country as some of our member groups are still declared Unlawful Associations [by the government], or some have not reached a ceasefire agreement yet.”

The UNFC wants to discuss several issues with the government, such as establishing peace in Kachin State and the amendment of Burma’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

On Friday, the government announced that it was implementing a unilateral ceasefire in Kachin State, but fighting continued to rage over the weekend. Both sides have accused the other of launching attacks.

The UNFC was quick to dismiss the announcement, saying the government was misleading the international community into thinking that it was ceasing its Kachin offensive.