Can Burmese-Kachin war end through talks as China exploits resources?By Zin Linn Mar 08, 2012 2:02PM UTC
The Thein Sein government agreed to talk with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) this Thursday (8 March) in neighboring China, after the two sides could not have consent on a location to meet in February.
KIO officials from the Laiza headquarters confirmed to the Kachin News Group a government delegation led by U Aung Thaung and a nine-member KIO delegation led by Sumlut Gam will meet on Thursday in Ruili (Shweli) on Sino-Burma border in China’s Yunnan Province. The talks come a week after President Thein Sein gave a speech to the country to mark his annual inauguration in March last year.
As the US and the EU have been urging to end the civil war with ethnic rebels, the government peacemaking team seems to negotiate the most important political differences between the two sides during the Ruili talks, KIO officials said.
Dr. Lahkyen La Ja, General Secretary of the KIO spoke out at the Feb. 28 press conference of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, saying another ceasefire is not the solution but rather withdrawal of government troops from KIO territories and a political dialogue under international mediation, according to KNG.
The civil war in Kachin State has been desperately going on so far. It is different from any other ethnic war that takes place in Burma’s ethnic regions. The reality of the war in Kachin State is based on self-determination, including managing right of natural resources.
In other words, successive army-based Burmese governments constantly dismiss the Kachin rebels’ demand for equality while it has been robbing the precious natural resources for decades. In addition, most of the natural resources are exploited by the neighboring China which takes advantage of Burma’s domestic crisis. China’s investment in Burma reached US$12.3 billion, referring Chinese data Reuters News said.
In July 2011, there was a two-day (July 12-13) meeting of Kachin delegates in Laiza, in Burma’s northern Kachin State. The meeting concluded with the denunciation of a truce without political reconciliation with the Burmese government, referring participants in the meeting, Kachin News Group [KNG] reported.
The July 12-13 meeting was held at the Alen Bum Military Base, in the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) command center Laiza, hearing the opinions from Kachin public leaders on reinstallation of ceasefire between the KIO and the military-backed Burmese government. More than 120 delegates from Kachin State, Shan State and the rest of Burma participated in the assembly.
During the meeting, Maj-Gen Gunhtang Gam Shawng, Chief of Staff of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the military-branch of the KIO, revealed details about the KIO’s ceasefire plan to Kachin public leaders at the meeting. However, KIO’s new ceasefire plan was rejected by delegates because of the failure to achieve a political solution over the last five decades, a Kachin News Group (KNG) reporter in Laiza said.
Talks between the KIO and the Burmese government were also unsuccessful in 1963, 1972, and 1980 respectively because all talks failed to reach a political dialogue.
The deadlock between two sides is due to the undemocratic constitution unilaterally made by the previous junta. President Thein Sein’s government took office in March last year under the said constitution. However, the KIO rejects any talks on the basis of the 2008 constitution as the bill will not help solving the root cause of the political issues between the two sides.
The KIO says it will talk to the government on the basis of Panglong Treaty signed by General Aung San and ethnic Kachin, Chin and Shan leaders agreed to establish a multiethnic federal union.
In his speech on March 1, the president did not mention the Panglong agreement but called for national solidarity among ethnic nationalities.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi released a statement in last June calling for both the government and the KIO to stop heavy fighting immediately in order to protect people’s lives and properties. It also called for peaceful talks between stakeholders to settle the decade-long political crisis of the country.
On February 24, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and head of the NLD made a canvassing tour to Myitkyina the capital of Kachin state, for the upcoming 1 April by-election, and there she addressed several thousand audience in search of peace in the Kachin State the country’s political impasse must be resolved on the basis of the Panglong spirit.
According to Lah Nan, Deputy General Secretary No. 2 of the KIO, government troops and Kachin forces have clashed more than 90 times since the two delegations met in Ruili in mid-January, KNG reported.
However, during the meeting the two parties agreed to control their troops in frontlines while seeking a genuine political dialogue.
At the moment, there are some hot questions among the general public. What is the objective of the Burma Army’s current large offensive against the KIO? Why does the army hesitate to back the peace talks? Is there a faction in the Thein Sein government with an aim to take possession of the natural resources of the Kachin State accompanied by Chinese capitalists?