Government, KIO Unable to Set a Date for Peace Talks

By Nyein Nyein 2 February 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Burmese government’s Peace Commission has invited the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) to Rangoon to hold bilateral peace talks, but KIO leaders appeared frustrated by the government’s lack of response to recent questions.

On Jan. 26, Peace Commission chairman Dr. Tin Myo Win sent an invitation letter to Salang Sumlut Gam, who leads the KIO’s negotiating team.

“The Peace Commission is ready to hold the bilateral talks with the KIO in Rangoon, if the KIO wants political talks,” the government’s letter read. “The security of KIO leaders would be guaranteed.”

Responding to a request the KIO made last year, the government agreed to hold “bilateral talks with the KIO only.” The Peace Commission was ready to get started, commission advisor Dr. Min Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy.

But “the agenda for the talks has not been set, and that will only be made clear when both sides can meet for bilateral discussion,” Dr. Min Zaw Oo said.

Moreover, Gen Gun Maw, the vice chairman of the KIO, expressed doubts about the peace commission’s letter when he spoke to The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

“Their letter is not very clear,” he said, “and we think this is not really an invitation to hold bilateral talks.”

The letter did not specify a date for when talks could start.

“This letter is more like a general description,” he said. “It does not include the answers to questions we asked in December, so we wrote back [on Jan. 28] to ask the government to answer our previous questions.”

In December, the KIO sent letters asking for the government’s official position on an earlier ceasefire agreement—the one the KIO signed on Feb. 24, 1994 with the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).

The KIO also requested an explanation for threats made on Dec. 19 by the commander of the Burma Army’s Northern Command, who accused the KIO of breaking the terms of the 1994 ceasefire related to troop deployments, and he threatened to launch further attacks against Laiza and Mai Ja Yang, according to the KIO letters.

Regarding the letters, both sides told The Irrawaddy that they would engage in follow-up communications to achieve “more concise descriptions and understanding.”

In recent months, the United Nationalities Federal Council’s (UNFC) delegation for political negotiation (DPN) has represented the KIO in talks with the central government.

“We will continue to do so,” said Gen Gun Maw.

But peace talks between the UNFC ethnic bloc—which the KIO chairs—and the government have been stalled since Nov. 20, when four ethnic armed groups launched an offensive against the Burma Army in Kachin and Shan states. Those four armed groups—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA)—have joined together militarily to form the Northern Alliance.

On Jan. 13, the DPN met with the Peace Commission to hold informal talks in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The two sides agreed to meet again at the end of January, but the later meeting never materialized.

DPN chief Khu Oo Reh told The Irrawaddy that they are still negotiating with the government to set a date for new talks.

The two sides had agreed to hold informal talks in Chiang Mai before formal talks in Rangoon, he said, “but now we received news from the peace commission office that their leaders are too busy organizing the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference.”

“So it’s hard to understand whether we should propose a date or not,” Khu Oo Reh said, “They should be more specific on the date if that is really an invitation.”