CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Amid a weeks-long surge in fighting in parts of Kachin State under the control of the Kachin Independence Army, the KIA and leaders of Myanmar’s military, or Tatmadaw, met for talks in China’s Yunnan province on Thursday.
The talks are at the military-to-military level and being conducted with the support of China, according to sources close to the peace process who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The two sides were headed by Lieutenant-General Tun Tun Naung, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Bureau of Special Operations 1, and Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) chairman N’Ban La, according to Kachin News.
No one from the government’s Peace Commission, which handles most peace negotiations, was present at the talks, as the KIA reportedly requested that the talks be limited to representatives of the two sides.
Renewed fighting flared up between the Tatmadaw and KIA in areas controlled by the latter’s Brigade 2 in Tanai Township, and Brigade 3 in Mansi Township. The Tatmadaw recently seized the KIA’s in Nam Gun, at the confluence of the Tanai tributary and the Nam Gun tributary.
The fighting trapped about 3,000 people in the Nam Gun gold mining area of Tanai. Of those about one-third have been able to leave for more secure areas. Sr. Naw Tawng, a member of the local emergency relief provision committee for IDPs, told The Irrawaddy that the Tatmadaw checkpoints have been permitting civilian travel since Tuesday.
To exit Tanai, the trapped gold and amber mine workers must pass through checkpoints where they are subject to lengthy inspections by soldiers. So far around 1,000 civilians have arrived at temporary shelters outside the township, according to local relief workers.
About two-thirds of them remain stranded in Nam Gun and are facing shortages of food and drinking water, Sr. Naw Tawng said, citing testimony from those arriving in Tanai.
“They told us they had not had enough food or water [in Nam Gun] since Jan. 28,” he said. With many still stranded there, health problems are becoming a serious concern.
On Tuesday, mostly women, children and older men were allowed to pass, but on Wednesday a few young men were among the arrivals in Tanai. Only after being checked were they allowed to take the ferry to Tanai. The journey costs 10,000 MMK per person, Sr. Naw Tawng said.
Since Sunday, some of those who are stranding without shelter nor enough food had been risking their lives by walking through the jungle, which is strewn with land mines, according to Father Vincent Shawng Lwan of the Sumprabum Justice and Peace Commission.
Four miners were reportedly killed in Tatmadaw bombing raids a week ago.
The sound of artillery shelling and aerial bombardment could still be heard coming from Tanai as recently as Wednesday, local relief workers said