KIO Rejects Offer of Peace Talks

By Lawi Weng 9 July 2012

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has rejected the Burmese government’s offer to hold peace talks in Bhamo Township on Monday after Kachin and government forces clashed near the KIO stronghold of Laiza over the weekend.

The offer of talks, which would have included a meeting with Gen Soe Win, the Burmese army’s deputy commander-in-chief, comes amid a renewed government offensive against Laiza that began last Friday.

“We have no reason to go there to talk with him when there is so much tension,” KIO spokesperson La Nan told The Irrawaddy on Monday. He added that the group has already informed the government that it would not attend the talks because it doesn’t like the proposed location, which is in government-controlled territory.

Government troops shelled positions held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the KIO, on July 6-7, according to La Nan. These latest clashes in the year-long war between the two sides took place just 13 km from Laiza, where the KIO’s headquarters is located.

“They used artillery against our troops. We could hear the explosions from our headquarters,” said La Nan.

President Thein Sein “talks a lot about having peace in Kachin State, but it is difficult to build trust when ground troops keep fighting us,” he added. “They have a policy and even get orders regularly from the government to eliminate us. That is why the ground troops continue to fight us.”

The KIA has also accused government troops of using civilians as human minesweepers after 10 villagers were arrested in the Laiza area before the latest offensive was launched.

Meanwhile, KIA troops ambushed seven government army trucks in northern Shan State on Sunday. Two trucks were destroyed and several government troops were wounded in the attack, which took place while the government troops were traveling from Muse to Nanhkan Township.

Fighting in Kachin State broke out last June, ending a 17-year-old ceasefire between the KIO and government forces. Since then, about 70,000 villagers have been forced to flee their homes.

Local Kachin groups have told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese army is preventing UN aid agencies from transporting humanitarian supplies to 30 refugee camps sheltering thousands of Kachins who are now facing severe food shortages.

The KIO says the Burmese government is fighting to gain control of the natural sources in Kachin State. Repeated attempts at negotiations and orders by Thein Sein to find a ceasefire have so far failed to end military operations.