Troops Withdraw as KIO, Govt Delegates Meet

By Saw Yan Naing 16 September 2013

RANGOON — Delegates from the Burma government peace negotiation team and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) met on Monday in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina to discuss military matters and the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Some government troops deployed in conflict-torn areas of Mansi Township were reportedly withdrawn amid the talks, which will conclude on Tuesday.

San Aung, a Kachin peace advocate who mediated discussions between the KIO and the government, told The Irrawaddy that about 200 government soldiers were withdrawn at 10 am on Monday from Mansi Township. Several villages, including Nam Lim Pa, had been under attack by government troops for several days last week.

The meeting between the technical teams of the KIO and the government’s Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) took place at KIO liaison office in Myitkyina.

San Aung said the two-day peace talks would focus on issues including the resettlement of Kachin IDPs, joint monitoring of a peace deal, and an all-inclusive ceasefire.

“We will also discuss the current fighting that recently resumed in different parts of Kachin State,” he said. “Today we haven’t heard any fighting yet.”

He added that the delegates from both sides could decide to hold further talks between leaders from the government peace negotiation team and the KIO.

Representatives from the UPWC who attended the meeting included Col Than Aung, Security and Border Affairs Minister Lt-Col Aung Naing of the government’s Northern Command, and members of the government-associated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), including Min Zaw Oo and Kyaw Yin Hlaing, according to Hla Maung Shwe, a leader of the MPC who was involved in the meeting.

The government peace team led by Minister Aung Min of the President’s Office recently met in Thailand with an alliance of 11 ethnic armed groups known as the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), which is chaired by the KIO. The meeting in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai did not yield a concrete agreement.

Aung Min invited UNFC leaders to travel to Burma to sign a nationwide peace accord in late October. The ethnic leaders did not offer an immediate response but said they would notify the government at a later date of whether they would accept the invitation.

The last meeting between the KIO and the government peace negotiation team took place in Myitkyina in late May. The two parties signed a tentative peace agreement, pledging to undertake efforts to de-escalate and end hostilities.

The KIO and the government army have been fighting since a 17-year ceasefire broke down in June 2011. The conflict has displaced an estimated 100,000 people.

Since President Thein Sein took office in March 2011, announcing his intention to end decades of civil wars with ethnic rebels through a peace process, 14 major and minor ethnic armed groups in Burma have signed ceasefire agreements with the government. The KIO is the only major ethnic armed group that has not yet signed a ceasefire.