Kachin rebels say clashes won’t stop peace talks
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A spokesman for Myanmar’s ethnic Kachin rebels said Friday that cease-fire talks with the government will continue despite new clashes between the two sides.
La Nan of the Kachin Independence Army said in an email that a new round of talks will be held Monday. In the last talks in May, the two sides signed a seven-point agreement to move toward a peace settlement, but fighting continued and has increased since August.
Myanmar for decades has faced rebellions from several ethnic groups seeking autonomy. The Kachin are the only major rebel group that has not reached a cease-fire agreement with the elected government of President Thein Sein, who came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of harsh military rule.
The government is trying to forge a nationwide cease-fire accord with all armed ethnic groups to be signed in October.
La Nan said there have been continuing clashes since the end of August.
“However, the KIA technical advisory team and technical team of the (government’s) Myanmar Peace Center will hold talks on Sept. 16th,” he said. “If the government is genuinely committed to bringing peace, negotiations have to proceed.”
There have been 15 previous rounds of talks but no resolution is in sight, with the Kachin insisting on a comprehensive political settlement, not just a cease-fire.
“Clashes between ethnic groups and government troops will not hamper the peace talks,” said Hla Maung Shwe, a government negotiator, citing talks held with other groups despite numerous flare-ups. He said the government peace team led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min will meet with the Kachin negotiators on Sept. 16 in the Kachin state capital, Myitkyina.
He said the government has reached cease-fire agreements with 14 armed ethnic groups and is currently negotiating with the Kachin and another smaller minority, the Palaung.
La Nan said clashes could have been avoided if government troops operated only within their own territory, but violence had broken out when they approached Kachin camps.
The Kachin reached a peace agreement with the former military regime in 1994 but fighting erupted in June 2011 after the rebels refused to obey government orders to abandon a strategic base near a hydropower plant that is a joint venture with a Chinese company. There have been off-and-on skirmishes since then, at times escalating into serious bombardment by government troops.