China to host peace talks to defuse Kachin crisis in Myanmar
Myanmar's government and ethnic Kachin rebels said on Sunday that they would hold talks in China this week after some of the worst fighting in the country in years.
The two sides will attend an "emergency meeting" in the Chinese border town of Ruili on Monday to seek a breakthrough in the bloody conflict, Khun Okker, a spokesman for the United Nationalities Federal Council, said on Sunday.
"China arranged it," he said. "They might want to give their views to both the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) and the Myanmar government."
But Okker said the rebels "have not had much time to prepare" and the problem was unlikely to be resolved without talks at further meetings including the whole UNFC, formed by about a dozen ethnic groups.
There was no comment from the government, and it was unclear which officials would attend today's meeting.
Almost a dozen rounds of talks between Myanmar's reformist government and the Kachin since the conflict flared up again in 2011 have failed to make progress.
The KIA, which is fighting for greater autonomy, says any negotiations should also address its demands for political rights.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the Kachin broke down.
The government last month announced a unilateral ceasefire with the KIA but the fighting continued, with the government army capturing a key outpost as it edged closer to the rebels' headquarters near the Chinese border.
Beijing, which fears an influx of refugees from the violence-torn region, has urged an end to the fighting.
"China doesn't want very serious fighting along its border," Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst with close ties to the KIA, said of today's talks.
"More than 30,000 Myanmar troops are here in Kachin State. The KIA is resisting them with about 8,000 troops," he said. "Kachin State is ruined because of the long fighting."