Armed ethnic rebels in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state lodged a protest with the authorities on Wednesday after government troops engaged them in fresh fighting despite a new agreement about two weeks ago aimed at reducing hostilities.
The protest by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), came as government negotiators held talks with another armed rebel group, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), ahead of a planned nationwide cease-fire accord involving all of the country’s ethnic armed groups.
KNPP leaders and government negotiators meet in Loikaw, Oct. 23, 2013. Photo credit: RFA.
The KIO, which has expressed reservations about the government-proposed nationwide accord, said Naypyidaw’s soldiers had fought with KIA forces on Tuesday and Wednesday in Mansi township of Kachin state’s Bhamo district.
The latest clashes on Wednesday morning in Bhamo involved the 12th Battalion of the KIA’s Third Brigade, it said. Tuesday’s clashes occurred in Mansi’s Mudainpan village.
KIO spokesman Daung Kha said he still had few details on the fighting, but rebel leaders had complained about it to the top government negotiator, Aung Min, who is a minister in President Thein Sein’s office, as well as military commanders involved in cease-fire talks.
“We notified Minister Aung Min and the general headquarters of Northern Command to [have them] solve this problem as soon as possible,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“Both sides must show respect and follow the agreement we made, including not to have further fighting,” he said. Peace agreements
The KIO is the only major Myanmar rebel group that has not yet signed a cease-fire pact with the government.
On Oct. 10, the government and Kachin rebels failed to nail down a permanent cease-fire accord signed a new agreement aimed at reducing hostilities and laying the groundwork for political dialogue.
The deal ironed out new rules for teams monitoring clashes and arrangements for the resettlement of civilians displaced by fighting.
Thein Sein’s government, which is racing to end decades of fighting with ethnic groups in a bid to speed up political and economic reforms after decades of military rule, has said it is aiming to hold a ceremony for all rebel groups to sign the nationwide accord in November, though previous proposals to do so have been delayed.
Government troops and KIA soldiers have been locked in sporadic fighting since a 17-year cease-fire agreement was shattered in 2011, reigniting their decades-old conflict.
The clashes in Mansi follow fighting earlier this month in Shan state that forced KIA troops to withdraw from two posts near the Kachin state border, the Kachin News Group reported.
Next week, the KIO is expected to host an alliance of Myanmar’s armed rebel groups at its headquarters in Laiza for a meeting to discuss the government’s nationwide cease-fire plans and draft their own proposed version of the accord. KNPP talks
Ahead of the conference, government negotiators held their third round of talks Tuesday and Wednesday with the KNPP in southern Myanmar’s Karenni state (also known as Kayah state).
During the meeting in Karenni state capital Loikaw, government negotiators led by Aung Min provided the KNPP delegation, headed by the party’s vice chairman Khu Oo Yei, details of a draft nationwide cease-fire accord.
The KNPP has signed its own individual cease-fire agreement with the government but its leaders have said they will not join a nationwide accord without political dialogue.
A seven-point agreement reached at the end of Wednesday’s talks included plans to continue working toward a nationwide cease-fire agreement—as well as plans for forming a joint monitoring group, clearing land mines, ensuring security on a major highway, opening liaison offices, and providing electricity to residents in the conflict-torn area.
“We can say today’s talks were about making a possible step toward moving toward a nationwide cease-fire,” KNPP joint secretary Shwe Myo Thant told RFA after the talks.
Observer Hla Maung Shwe, an adviser from the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center, said negotiators hoped the KNPP would decide to join the nationwide accord after next week’s talks in Laiza and subsequent talks with government negotiators in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina.
“The government and the KNPP each have their own way of thinking,” he said.
“They are going to discuss [their views] at the talks with all armed ethnic groups in Laiza and we hope they will be able to negotiate what they want in these talks."
“If so, I think, they will be ready to sign on to a nationwide cease-fire after talks in Myitkyina,” he said.
Reported by Kyaw Myo Tun, Sai Tun Aung Lwin, and Nay Thway for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.