Govt to Hold Talks with SSA-South; Meeting with KIA Next Week

By Lawi Weng 18 May 2012

A Shan State Army-South (SSA-South) delegation has left the ethnic armed group’s headquarters at Loi Tai Laeng for the latest round of peace talks with the government in the Shan State capital of Kengtung.

According to Sai Lao Hseng, the group’s spokesperson, the 22-member delegation is led by Brig-Gen Sai Pong Key.

“Our group will meet [the government delegation] tomorrow morning for talks,” said Sai Lao Hseng, “We will mainly discuss cooperating with the government in the eradication of illegal drugs. We also need to talk about our last agreement at union level, which has not been implemented yet.”

During previous union-level talks, the two sides discussed local development, deciding where the group’s bases will be located and plans to set up liaison offices.

The SSA-South agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese government last December. Since then, however, government forces have attacked SSA-South troops 17 times, according to the group.

This will be the first time the SSA-South has met with a new peace team formed by the Burmese government earlier this month.

The new peace team will also meet with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, on May 21, according to a Thai military intelligence source.

Burmese Railways Minister Aung Min, who is also the government’s chief peace negotiator, will meet Gen Gun Maw, the deputy military chief of the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independent Army (KIA), the source said.

Sources in Laiza, the headquarters of the KIA, said there has been no break in fighting with the Burmese army, which began firing artillery at Laiza on Thursday morning.

The KIA says the government army has deployed 2,000 to 3,000 troops on the front line.

The KIO has already held three rounds of peace talks with the Burmese government on the Chinese border, meeting with delegations led by Aung Thaung, who has recently been sidelined by the formation of the new peace team. No agreement has yet been reached.

The KIO’s main demand is the withdrawal of Burmese troops KIA-controlled territory.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand said that 10 troops from Light Infantry Battalion 347 and Infantry Battalion 118 gang-raped an ethnic Kachin woman at Luk Pi, a village in Chipwi Township, northwest of Pangwa, where there is ongoing daily fighting between government troops and the KIA.

According to the statement, the 48-year-old victim was raped in a local church in the first week of May after the rest of the village had fled.

“The troops beat her with rifle butts, stabbed her with knives, stripped her naked and gang-raped her over a period of three days in the church,” said the statement.