Govt Offers KIA Peace Talks amid Fighting

By Saw Yan Naing 20 December 2012

Despite fierce fighting with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Burmese government has suggested another round of peace talks in early January, according to rebel sources.

Seng Awng of Peace Talk Creation Group told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that leaders of the ethnic armed group’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), received a letter from the Burmese authorities on Dec. 13 asking for a political dialogue. A KIO official also confirmed that they received the written request, but declined to elaborate further.

The move came amid heavy fighting between government and KIA troops and so the rebel leaders still have not issued a response, said the KIO official, adding that it is possible bilateral talks could be held next month.

Zaw Htay, the director of the President’s Office in Naypyidaw, confirmed that the government’s peace team wants to hold talks with the KIO in the new year. President’s Office Minister Aung Min, the government’s chief negotiator with ethnic armed groups, informally agreed to the political dialogue demanded by the KIO leadership during their last meeting in the Chinese border town of Ruili on Oct. 30.

James Lun Dau, deputy chief for KIO foreign affairs, said that he doubts whether the new peace talks offered by the government would help put an end to the year-and-a-half-long conflict as several previous rounds have not heralded a tangible agreement.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, an observer at the Sino-Burmese border, said that the government army is now preparing for another assault on KIA bases in Pangwa area, northeast of the Kachin State capital Myitkyina.

As fighting escalates, it was reported that government forces suffered massive losses on Dec. 14. Around 60 Burmese casualties were reported during an offensive in Lajayang region, near the rebel headquarters of Laiza, where around 70,000 displaced civilians are staying in refugee camps, according to KIA sources.

Founded in 1961, the KIA, now with an estimated 15,000 troops, signed a ceasefire agreement with the ex-military regime in 1994, but this broke down on June 19, 2011, with fighting continuing unabated to the present day.