Government of Burma and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) or the ethnic Kachin rebels signed a preparatory treaty on Thursday that seems to trim down military concerns in Burma’s Kachin state and northern Shan state. Many analysts consider that this preliminary agreement may direct to additional improvement towards accomplishing a peaceful conclusion.
It was the first time that the eighth round of talks between the two sides took place in Myitkyina, the capital of the Kachin state, inside Burma under the central government since fighting resumed in Kachin state in June 2011. Previous rounds of talks took place in the Chinese border town of Ruili as well as in Mai Ja Yang, the KIO’s second largest town in Kachin state.
This time the three-day talks started on 28 May in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina. On the third day of the negotiations, the government peacemaking team and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) reached a seven-point preliminary agreement. The government’s peace delegation was led by Union Minister Aung Min and Lt-Gen. Myint Soe who is head of the Bureau of Special Operation-1 that watch over military operations in Kachin State. The KIO delegation at the talks was led by Brig-Gen Sumlut Gun Maw, the Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
The most important points that agreed by both parties are to carry out difficult task to attain decreasing and termination of hostilities and to maintain negotiations on military issues concerning rearrangement of respective armed forces, according to the groundwork agreement.
Despite the fact that the agreement did not reach a full-scale ceasefire, it seems to “prevent further clashes while efforts are in progress to reduce hostilities”, according to a peace-broker Hla Maung Shwe, who made the comments during an interview with the Democratic Voice of Burma on Thursday afternoon. Hla Maung Shwe a member of the EU funded Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) told DVB that the agreement also includes provisions to hold political discussions between the government and the KIO in the near future.
As reported by the Kachin News Group (KNG), a number of senior military commanders also attended the talks including Lt-Gen Myint Soe head of the Bureau of Special Operation-1 in Kachin State. Referring Kachin sources familiar with the negotiations, the KIO’s demand for constitutional and political reform based on the 1947 Panglong Agreement were not discussed and are unlikely to be addressed during the talks. The talks instead focused on ways to deescalate military tensions and the implementation of troop monitoring process.
Vijay Nambiar, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser on Burma, was also present as an observer during the three-day talks between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese government. Representatives from China and other ethnic observers from United Nationalities Federal Council were also in attendance. Even though the KIO wanted to invite observers from the US and British governments, they were not in attendance. Their participation in the talks is reported to have been vetoed by the Chinese government, KNG said.
Subsequent to government airstrikes on positions of the KIO, hostilities between the KIO and Burmese government armed forces have decreased in number by far since January this year. However, clashes between the two sides have still frequently occurred in many areas of Kachin and northwest Shan state, as reported by the Kachin News Group.
Ahead of this eighth round of talks, on 22 May, the Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA) issued a press statement on the political and military conflict in Kachin region. The Assembly demands four main points in the statement – Equal ethnic rights, justice and peace; Self-rule over our traditional territories; Full rights of self-determination and autonomy; Establishment of a genuine Federal Union.
The KNCA also says in its statement that it is necessary “to include appropriate international monitoring groups in future meetings as witnesses and mediators. For example, we believe that best result will come out if the UN, UK, China and USA will serve as witnesses and mediators.”
Most people are willing to see what will be the outcome in next rounds of peace-talks as the KIO has been under demands from the Kachin general public not to bargain beyond their desires with the government of Burma which still remains in disfavor in Kachin state.