Kachin Rebels to Hold Ceasefire Talks Next Month

By Saw Yan Naing 17 September 2013

RANGOON—Kachin rebel leaders are scheduled to meet with government peace negotiator Aung Min for another round of ceasefire talks early next month, a senior member of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) said on Tuesday.

San Aung, a KIO peace mediator, said technical teams of the KIO and the government’s Union Peace Working Committee held a two-day meeting in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina, where they discussed plans for high-level ceasefire talks, military affairs and issues pertaining to displaced Kachin villagers.

“The two parties agreed today to hold a meeting between the KIO and the governance peace negotiation team in early October,” San Aung told The Irrawaddy.

Burma Army Col Than Aung, Security and Border Affairs Minister Lt-Col Aung Naing of the government’s Northern Command, and members of the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) attended Tuesday’s discussions, he added.

Hla Maung Shwe, of the MPC, confirmed that another round of ceasefire talks would held early next month, adding that the meeting would probably take place in Myitkyina.

The KIO and the Burma Army have been involved in occasionally heavy fighting after a long-standing ceasefire broke down in 2011. From December 2012 to early February this year, fighting escalated in the strategically important mountains surrounding Laiza. The sides have met several times for ceasefire talk since then and the fighting has died down, although skirmishes continue.

International aid agencies are now slowly gaining more access to the displaced villagers staying in KIO-held areas.

This week, the second international aid convoy to reach Laiza since December 2011 arrived, according to KIO sources. “They arrived on Monday and they met with refugees in Laiza, and are leaving again tomorrow,” said the KIO member, who declined to be named. “There were 17 trucks; they delivered humanitarian aid to the refugees.”

The convoy provided aid to displaced Kachin staying in Jae Yang IDP camp in Laiza. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UNHCR and the World Food Program organized the convoy, according sources in Laiza.

In early September, an 11-truck UN convoy delivered food, medicines and other items to 4,300 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Woi Chyai camp in Laiza, a small town on the Burma-China border where the KIO is headquartered.

It was the first time that an international aid convoy was able to reach KIO-controlled areas since December 2011, when Naypyidaw began blocking international aid to the areas. According to the UN, about 100,000 ethnic Kachin villagers have been displaced by the conflict in northern Burma, some 53,000 of who stay in KIO-held areas.

A substantial number of Kachin refugees have also sought in China’s Yunnan Province. According to sources in Laiza, some of these refugees, who are staying an area known locally as “6 border posts,” have recently come under pressure from Chinese security forces who are demanding that they return to Kachin State soon.