Kachins Still Seek an Elusive Truce

By Lawi Weng 20 June 2012

No truce was reached on Wednesday despite a third round of peace talks between a Burmese government delegation and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIA).

The four-hour meeting took place in Maijayang, Kachin State, where a delegation from Naypyidaw led by Railways Minister Aung Min, who was recently appointed vice-chairman of the newly formed Union Peacemaking Working Committee, met with the KIA’s chief of staff, Maj-Gen Sumlut Gun Maw, and other KIA leaders.

According to San Aung, an ethnic Kachin mediator who attended the meeting, Aung Min brought a map from Naypyidaw which he presented to the Kachin leaders. On it was drawn demarcations suggesting sites for Burmese army bases and KIA bases.

The government delegation reportedly agreed to move Burmese army units out of certain Kachin villages where their troops are currently based to allow displaced Kachin villagers to return to their homes.

However, the government delegation did not agree to withdraw their troops from all KIA-controlled areas, but instead proposed both sides distancing their battalions simultaneously.

The KIA leaders said they will discuss the proposal from Naypyidaw when they return to their headquarters in Laiza. The KIA proposed withdrawing their forces from government-controlled zones at the last meeting on June 1.

Mediator San Aung said that although no agreement was reached, signs were positive and that each meeting was “a step closer” to ending the conflict that ignited in June 2011 after the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire.

Despite the peace talks, fighting is ongoing on a near-daily basis in northern Shan State between government troops and KIA Brigade 4. The Burmese army has recently deployed 2,000 to 3,000 troops in KIA-controlled areas, according to Kachin sources.

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi recently condemned the fighting in Kachin State, which has forced about 70,000 Kachin villagers from their homes, many of whom are presently sheltering in refugee camps along the Chinese border.