Parties Upbeat as Day One of Kachin Peace Talks Closes

By Nyein Nyein 28 May 2013

MYITKYINA, Kachin State — Negotiators from both the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) have agreed to continue discussions on military affairs, the establishment of a ceasefire negotiations monitoring team and the way forward on political dialogue during the latest round of peace talks.

While Tuesday marked the eighth meeting between the two parties, it was the first gathering convened inside Burma and was attended by UN special envoy Vijay Nambiar and Chinese counselor Lu Zhi, who served as international observers. The meeting lasted for about two hours on Tuesday.

Gen Sumlut Gun Maw of the KIO’s military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said he was pleased with the meeting, but added that “we will have to discuss the details.”

On the formation of a monitoring team, which the KIO has proposed would observe ceasefire negotiations, Gun Maw said: “Regarding the monitoring team, we cannot decide unilaterally, we have to include all the parties—the government, KIO, local leaders.”

Nambiar, the special adviser to the UN secretary-general, said after the meeting that the talks had been excellent, with both parties discussing various issues that were also addressed during the previous meeting in March. He said he hoped “they do come to an agreement to lay the basis for a durable peace and sustained peace.”

Kachin MP Doi Bu said discussions thus far had been productive, though Tuesday’s meeting did not yield any breakthroughs.

“Both sides are harmonious,” she told The Irrawaddy. “They discussed from their hearts for the peace for the public.

“For the best result, the talk needs to continue, as it is important for both the Kachin people and the government.”

Tuesday failed to bring about any binding decisions, with the KIO set to meet with the public tomorrow at the same venue, Majoi Hall at Manau Park, to discuss the ongoing peace talks.

“We hope to share our desires concerning future political dialogue with the public,” Gun Maw said.

The KIO has strong support from the Kachin public, according to youth and community members with whom The Irrawaddy spoke. Gun Maw, Sumlut Gam and other KIA leaders were warmly welcomed by thousands on Monday when the KIO arrived at its newly reopened liaison office in front of Manau Park.

The meeting’s attendees and observers spoke optimistically of Tuesday’s talks.

Sam Khun, deputy leader of public relations for the United Wa State Army (UWSA), told The Irrawaddy that “as an observer, I think they discussed openly even though it is my first time attending the KIO and government talks.

“They are on the right track for the talks, I think,” he added.

An uneasy standoff between the parties leading up to the meeting saw the government pushing to hold the talks with only domestic observers in attendance, while the KIO had wanted an international presence. The two sides initially agreed to bar international observers from the meeting room.

But speaking to The Irrawaddy before the meeting, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries Ohn Myint said it was not clear whether Chinese observers would ultimately attend.

“We did not object to the KIO’s invitation to foreign observers. Until the late evening on Monday, when we held informal talks with General Gun Maw, it was not clear whether China would attend or not. But we were later informed that the Chinese counselor would join the meeting.”

Lu Zhi, counselor from the Chinese Embassy in Burma, arrived at Majoi Hall just before the meeting convened. When asked about the talks by The Irrawaddy during a break, Lu Zhi said he would not comment at the moment as he was just learning about what had been discussed.

Lt-Gen Myint Soe, speaking on behalf of Burma’s military (Tatmadaw), said the Tatmadaw would continue its dialogue with the KIO, along with the government team, in pursuit of a mutually desired peace. “We have committed to working to reach an agreement for ending war by both sides,” he said.

All three parties—the government, KIO and the Tatmadaw—were upbeat about the prospects for the latest round of peace talks, which are also being attended by local Kachin leaders.

“There are good guys, I am confident there will be progress,” Nambiar said.

Government representatives highlighted the fact that at present “fighting is nonexistent and peace is prevailing there.” Kachin State has also seen the reopening of a major transport artery since the last talks.

The government is trying to hold an all-inclusive meeting with ethnic leaders from all the country’s major ethnic groups in July, but the KIO has said it will await further details before committing to attend.