Burma

KIO, Myanmar Peace Team Discuss Truce, IDPs

By Kyaw Kha 18 October 2019

YANGON—The Myanmar government’s Peace Commission met with a delegation from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) led by its chairman General N’Ban La in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Thursday.

“The discussion was focused on signing a truce and the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement],” a source with the KIO told The Irrawaddy. “Other topics, including IDPs [internally displaced persons], were also discussed.”

The Irrawaddy was not able to independently confirm the topics discussed at the meeting, as both sides declined to officially comment, but sources in Chiang Mai confirmed that the meeting did occur. The two sides reportedly had a three-hour working dinner.

The government delegation consisted of Peace Commission Secretary and former Lieutenant General U Khin Zaw Oo, President’s Office Director U Zaw Htay and Peace Commission advisers U Hla Maung Shwe and U Moe Zaw Oo.

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the KIO, is a member of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups, along with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA).

None of the members of the Northern Alliance are signatories of the NCA. The Myanmar military and the KIA maintained a ceasefire for 17 years, from 1994 to 2011.

The Northern Alliance has a policy that all four members will only sign a truce with the Myanmar government as a group.

On Aug. 15, when the Myanmar military’s unilateral ceasefire was still in effect for most of the country, the TNLA, MNDAA and AA launched joint attacks on a number of targets in Shan State as well as a military academy in Mandalay Region. Tensions have remained high since. Meanwhile, the AA has been fighting the Myanmar army in Rakhine State since November 2018.

The KIA, however, is the largest group in the Northern Alliance and has steered clear of the fighting.

“It is unlikely that the KIO will keep its meeting [with the government] secret from its three allies. It might have some satisfactory answers for its allies,” said a source close to the KIO.

When asked about the goal of the meeting, ethnic affairs analyst U Maung Maung Soe suggested the government might want to separate the KIA from the other members of the Northern Alliance by offering to make compromises.

“We will need to wait and see if the KIA will deviate from its policy to sign [a truce] together with fellow members of the Northern Alliance,” said U Maung Maung Soe. He added that, as there is a pause in the fighting between the Northern Alliance and the military in Shan State, it is “more likely that the KIA will sign a truce together with its allies, as the Northern Alliance.”

The Northern Alliance and the government have met three times this year. At the most recent meeting last month, the two sides agreed to work towards signing bilateral ceasefire agreements.

However, military tensions remain high on the ground, especially in Rakhine State, where dozens of civilian deaths have been reported and thousands have been forced from their homes due to clashes and instability.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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