New Frontline Discussed in Kachin Peace Talks

By Lawi Weng 12 March 2013

RANGOON — The Burmese government and Kachin rebels opened discussions on establishing a new frontline between their armies during negotiations in China on Monday.

Kachin leaders rejected calls from the government for an immediate ceasefire during the talks in the Chinese border town of Ruili, saying they needed more assurances from the government.

They first hope to establish new boundaries to show which areas are controlled by government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“This is the first time we have discussed military issues,” said Gun Maw, deputy army chief of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). “It is ongoing and we could not make any decision yet.”

He added: “They wanted us to sign a ceasefire agreement first, but there are many issues to discuss about the peace process before we can reach a ceasefire.”

He said a public statement would be released once the discussions within the Kachin leadership had been completed.

It was the second round of talks since fighting eased in late January, after a major operation by the Burmese government army to surround the rebel headquarters of Laiza. The talks involved the government’s lead negotiator Aung Min, Deputy Army Chief Soe Win and generals who had been directly involved in the conflict since it resumed in June 2011.

Col Zaw Tawng of the KIA said that sporadic clashes were continuing between the two sides due to their close proximity.

There have been multiple reports of Burmese troops resupplying their positions. The Myanmar Times on Monday reported that the army had exploited the passage of UN aid convoys in northern Kachin State to reinforce their troops.

“We have not had major fighting this week,” said Col Tawng. “But we have some small clashes sometimes. There are also cases of landmines blowing up in some areas.

“There were two clashes in Lajayang on March 9. Both sides still could not reach a full understanding for ceasefire. We hope that the fighting will end soon after these peace talks,” he said.

Up to 100,000 Kachin villagers have been displaced as a result of the conflict, many of whom are currently taking refuge at camps on the Chinese side of the border.