Myanmar government and Kachin rebels renew talks
Representatives of the Kachin Independence Organisation meet government officials led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min
Agence France-Presse in Yangon
Myanmar’s government met Kachin rebels for renewed peace talks in China on Monday, an analyst said, as the rivals seek to resolve a festering ethnic conflict that has undermined reforms.
Representatives of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) – and its armed wing the KIA – met government officials led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min in the Chinese border town of Ruili.
“I think this meeting may be a little more productive than the previous one (in February) although we cannot expect too much,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst with close ties to the KIO who was monitoring the talks in Ruili.
“Myanmar troops are not retreating from Kachin State yet,” he said, adding that Chinese officials and members of some of Myanmar’s other ethnic groups were also present for the talks.
A dozen rounds of talks between the government and the Kachin since 2011 have faltered with fighting continuing to claim lives on both sides and rights groups accusing Myanmar’s army of a catalogue of abuses.
But analysts said a new round in February, followed up by Monday’s discussions, were a positive development after the latest upsurge in fighting.
The government in January announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Kachin after fighting intensified, but battles continued with the government army capturing a key outpost as it edged closer to the rebels’ headquarters near the Chinese border in the far north.
The Kachin, who are fighting for greater autonomy, say any negotiations should also address their demands for more political rights.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the Kachin broke down.
Beijing, which fears an influx of refugees, has urged an end to the fighting. The conflict has overshadowed sweeping changes under Myanmar’s reformist President Thein Sein following the end of decades of harsh military rule in 2011.