KIO Offers to Halt Hostilities

By Zarni Mann 1 February 2013

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) issued a statement on Friday saying that its armed wing would immediately stop fighting if government troops end their offensive against the group.

Calling for “political ways of negotiation,” the KIO said that peace talks should proceed with the help of international and other organizations.

The move comes exactly two weeks after the Burmese government announced a unilateral ceasefire on Jan. 19 that collapsed almost as soon as it came into effect.

In the statement, the KIO also blasted the government’s “one-sided” account of why the conflict continues, saying that the Ministry of Information had released reports to state-run media blaming the KIO for the failure to hold further peace talks.

Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut, who is also a spokesperson for the President’s Office, said on his Facebook page on Friday that the he welcomes the KIO declaration that it would stop fighting.

“As for holding peace talks, the government and the army are already trying to do that, so we welcome the KIO’s remarks on that subject. However, I have no comment to make about their accusation that the government’s information is one-sided,” he said.

President Thein Sein, in a speech broadcast nationwide on Friday morning, also said that it is time for all parties to sit and negotiate rather than fighting each other.

“Now is the time to have a conversation and negotiate for peace, for all of our people want genuine peace and stability. I would like to urge all concerned groups and their leaders to come to the negotiating table,” he said.

Some observers said that the KIO statement could be a signal that the conflict in norther Burma is coming closer to an end.

“We welcome the statement of the KIO, which opens the way toward peace. Peace talks between both parties might be held in the second week of this month, although we don’t know exactly where they will take place,” said Hla Maung Shwe of the group Myanmar Egress.

Meanwhile, according to Maj Min Htay, a spokesperson for the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, an ally of the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the situation near the KIA’s  headquarters of Laiza was calm on Friday.

“Two shells fell near Alin Bon mountain yesterday, but today it is calm,” he said, adding, however, that  there are still governments troops camped on nearby mountains.