Burma President Thein Sein met national races affairs ministers from regions and states at the Presidential Palace in Nay-Pyi-Taw on September 7. Speaking on the occasion, President said that national races live in the country as blood brothers. Hence, he said, they have the basic rights of citizens stated in the constitution.

Kachin troops

Kachin Independence Army troops in training. Pic: AP.

However, Thein Sein also confessed that border regions still failed to sustain development on education, health, transportation, and the economy due to fragile stability and the problems with rule of law. This has resulted conflicts with ethnic armed groups, he acknowledged.

His government has been making efforts to end long-lasting armed conflicts so as to restore peace. Thein Sein emphasized that there has been progress in making peace with the ethnic armed-groups, with the exception of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“Currently, peace negotiations are going on at two levels, the first at region/state concerned. The process at region/state level would be smoother with the participation of all local national races including national races affairs ministers,” the President told the state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

“At the final stage, discussion and decisions would be made at the Parliament.”

On the contrary, the Kachin Independence Organization does not trust the government’s offer of peace talks. The fact is that while offering peace plans, the government has been increasing its deployment of armed forces in the conflict zones. Although Thein Sein has been calling for peace negotiations, his army has continued fighting to seize extra land in Kachin and Shan states. In addition, Burmese Army soldiers continue to commit crimes and human rights abuses in the ethnic territories.

According to sources who attended the peace talks, one of the major sticking points is the government delegation’s refusal to accept the KIO demand that issues relating to the political causes of the conflict be addressed prior to a ceasefire being reached.

Recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of the country's largest armed ethnic groups.

Heavy fighting has been ongoing this month between the KIA and government army forces and reported casualties continue to mount.

Last week, the Kachin resistance units used explosives to destroy a railway bridge near Maw-han station, according to the KIA officer who spoke to the Kachin News Group on condition of anonymity. The bridge was under fire to avoid reinforcements by the government army, KIA officer asserted.

To date, armed conflict between the government and the KIA has been going on mostly in eastern and central Kachin State. The KIO targets to block supply lines in southern Kachin state.  The current clashes are taking place in the state’s western jade rich Hpakant district where the Kachin resistance has claimed major victory over the past few weeks.  The government’s control of the Hpakant jade-land has reportedly earned billions in revenue since the early 1990s when the KIO gave up control of most of the area.

The government’s major offensive in Hpakant seems aimed at removing the KIA from important strategic positions that protect Laiza, the KIO’s de facto capital.  According to KIO’s spokesperson and Deputy General Secretary-2, Salang Kaba Lah Nan,  the government army has been gearing up for a major military offensive against the KIO using massive military strength of over 80 battalions.

If Lah Nan’s analysis turns out to be correct, it will be evidient that Thein Sein did not take into account the KIO’s “political dialogue first” demand. In addition, the President’s stance will provide evidence that his previous orders for the military to stop combating in Kachin frontline are deceptions. The KIO has repeatedly demanded to talk about issues relating to the political cause of the conflict prior to a ceasefire agreement.