Nationwide Ceasefire Unlikely Before Burmese New Year: KIA Leader

By Nobel Zaw 25 March 2015

RANGOON — A Kachin rebel leader has said a nationwide ceasefire between ethnic armed groups and the government cannot be signed before the Burmese New Year in mid-April, while he warned that a recent army airstrike on the rebels had negatively affected ceasefire negotiations.

Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Gun Maw told Irrawaddy editor-in-chief Aung Zaw during an exclusive interview in Rangoon on Wednesday that it would be impossible to secure a nationwide ceasefire accord between Naypyidaw and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) before the Water Festival starts on April 13.

“It cannot be [completed] before the Water Festival. If we get the draft agreement we need to inform our leaders first,” he said.

The NCCT, which represents an alliance of 16 ethnic armed groups, met with the Union Peacemaking Working Committee of Minister Aung Min in Rangoon last week for the seventh round of high-level negotiations and the sides are scheduled to resume talks on March 30.

According to some leaders on both the government and NCCT side, the upcoming negotiations could result in an agreement soon.

Burmese-language government mouthpiece The Mirror quoted Aung Naing Oo, associate director of the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center, as saying on Monday that an accord could be completed “within days.”

Over the weekend, however, shortly after a recess in what appeared to be positive negotiations, the KIA said the army launched an aerial attack on a rebel base along a frequent timber trade route near the border with China. Minor clashes continued on Monday for the third day.

Gun Maw said on Wednesday that the airstrike carried out amid ongoing negotiations had complicated the ceasefire process.

“It makes our meeting difficult. For example, we were discussing about the issue of troops [movement] in the evening when the [jet fighter] arrived. When I prepared to inform our central committee about the difficult issues in the meeting, the jet fighter attacked so I stopped informing them,” he said.

Gun Maw said the air attack raised questions about the government’s commitment to achieving a nationwide ceasefire. “When the peace talks are progressing … fighting operations [such as airstrikes] that are under direct high-level command can really damage negotiations,” he said.

“We are now analyzing this issue [of the airstrike] on two points: Is it meant to force us to sign a ceasefire agreement quickly, or do they [the government] think they don’t need to have peace?”

Meanwhile, in northern Shan State, some of the heaviest fighting in years is taking place between the Burma Army and the Kokang rebels of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced and dozens of soldiers and rebels have been killed.

The Kokang rebels are a NCCT member, but Naypyidaw refuses to acknowledge the MNDAA as a potential signatory to a ceasefire agreement.