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Seizing new strategic sites means damaging peace deal!

As most analysts believe, the first nationwide ceasefire talks between 16 ethnic armed groups including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Government’s Peacemaking Work Committee in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, ended on 5 November without having good results for both sides.

The government has expected that the ethnic rebel groups would vow to sign the ceasefire at the Myitkyina consultation, in keeping with peacemaking agents. But, their estimation went wrong as they could not make a breakthrough for nationwide ceasefire agreement. The preliminary talks ended earlier than expected, according to media reports from Myitkyina.

A major case of disagreement took place on 4 November when the government side led by Lt. Gen. Myint Soe complained with the rebel groups’ opinion where they called themselves ‘revolutionary forces’, as said by various media reports. The government side also has an aversion to the rebel groups’ several suggestions concerning the role of ethnic rebel groups in the country's future, especially of power sharing in administration and resource management. The government side reacted with their own scheme calling the ethnic armed groups to cease armed struggle, in other words to lay down their arms. Thus, the talks reached nowhere in support of peacemaking goal.

Subsequently, both sides agreed to issue a statement which indicated that all parties agreed to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement after a political dialogue. However, it remains uncertain when precisely such nationwide ceasefire signing ceremony will take place. The point was that the government’s representatives pressed for signing the treaty, while the ethnic groups insisted for promise of political dialogue before they accept to sign.

According to those who attended Myitkyina meeting, the signing of nationwide ceasefire accord will not come about in this November due to some disagreements during the recent discussion. The next round of talk is likely to take place in Pha-an, capital of the Karen state, sometime in December, as reported by the media.

Prior to the Myitkyina meeting, there was a summit amongst the ethnic rebel organizations in Laiza, HQ of the KIO, from 30 October to 2 November. The ethnic summit has made an eleven-point agreement which they said is groundwork so as to negotiate with the government side. Initially, the ethnic rebel groups wished-for only presenting to the government’s representatives with the eleven-point footing agreed at the Laiza summit. Yet, the government side reckoned the meeting as the first talk for a cessation of hostilities. the groups on

In addition, the government approved nine out of eleven points from the Laiza ethnic conference. Which two points they disagreed was unknown. But, in general, the offer to form a federal army was said to be rejected. When the government’s ceasefire draft proposal was presented for discussion, the talk ended with no reasonable end result.

Despite the fact that talks ended with no reasonable end result, such as how the rebel groups refer to themselves, the UN special envoy Vijay Nambiar praised the Kachin peace talks, calling their meeting a significant move forward in Myanmar national reconciliation process which he attended as an observer.

“The meeting in Myitkyina was the first meeting between the combined Ethnic Armed Organizations and the Government in decades and as such represents a significant move forward in the national reconciliation process,” said Nambiar.

The fact that such a meeting could take place within the country testifies to the distance that the Government and Ethnic Armed Groups have traversed since the beginning of the reform process in Myanmar, he added in a statement issued in Yangon.

Coincidently, a new documentation by the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) exposes recent atrocities by Burma/Myanmar government troops against Kachin civilians, despite ongoing peace negotiations.

KWAT put forwards its up-to-date document that spotlights violence committed in Nhka Ga village, near Putao, northern Kachin State, in September 2013. After fighting in the area, government soldiers raided the village, accusing them of supporting the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Then, the soldiers detained the villagers, torturing ten men and killing three, and a young mother was raped by an government officer, the document mentions.

As reported by the document, the said military operation is directly linked to the securing of control over northern Kachin State’s rich timber and mineral resources. Nhka Ga village lies on a new road being built from the China border to large accredited areas recently granted to billionaire crony Tay Za.

The government soldiers’ atrocities took place merely a month ahead of the latest peace talks between the KIO and the government in Myitkyina on October 8-10.                      

Soon after the last peace talks on October 22, roughly 1,000 government troops attacked and occupied two villages in Man-si township, in southern Kachin State, displacing over a thousand villagers. Around 400 villagers were detained in a village church, leading to the death of a 76-year-old woman. The government soldiers had moved in after KIA had withdrawn from the strategic Kaihtik-Bhamo road, KWAT’s document says.

“Between each round of peace talks, the Burmese government is seizing new strategic sites and expanding its military into Kachin areas,” said Jessica Nhkum, KWAT joint secretary.

“How can we believe that this process will lead to peace?”

The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) launched a similar report, “Pushed to the Brink – Conflict and human trafficking on the Kachin-China border”, on 5 June 2013 at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok.

According to the report, Burma Army offensives against the Kachin Independence Army since June 2011 and widespread human rights abuses have driven over 100,000 villagers from their homes, mainly in eastern Kachin State. The majority of these refugees have fled to crowded IDP camps along the China border, which receive virtually no international aid. KWAT is urging the government to immediately cease military offensives against Kachin people and other ethnic nationalities and withdraw troops from the conflict areas.

The government has released a number of statements indicating its willingness to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement with ethnic armed groups. Unfortunately, those offers have been considered contradictory.

As the time is running out, people can’t tolerate with the government’s vague policy of peacemaking which demands the counterparts to follow its uneven procedures without letting reasonable cooperation. Hence, government should take lessons from the past to reach the real peace deal by taking care of the ethnic rebel sides in an equal status. 

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