Myanmar Government, Kachin Rebels to Form Peace Commission

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myanmar-gun-maw-min-aung-hlaing-may-2014-305.jpg KIA deputy commander-in-chief General Gun Maw (L) and Myanmar armed forces commander of northern region General Tun Tun Naung (R) speak on the sides of a meeting in Myitkyina, May 13, 2014.

Myanmar’s government and ethnic Kachin rebels agreed in talks Tuesday to form a peace monitoring commission in a bid to curb ongoing clashes that have threatened to upset progress on a nationwide cease-fire agreement, according to officials and rebel leaders.

The commission would observe movement of troops from Myanmar’s military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and determine who is responsible for sparking any clashes, reports said.

The talks between leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political arm of the KIA, and government representatives in the northern Kachin state capital Myitkyina were their first since October.

Aung Min, a minister in President Thein Sein’s office who led the government’s nine-member delegation to the talks Tuesday, said that a peace monitoring commission would be formed to put an October agreement to cease hostilities into practice.

Both sides have accused each other of failing to honor the pact.

“We need to learn lessons from the recent clashes in Kachin state and, at the same time, we need to implement the peace process between the government and the KIO,” Aung Min said after the first of two days of talks Tuesday.

“We have agreed to form a peace monitoring commission as part of a pilot project to decrease fighting. We both have the responsibility to implement this plan.”

The Myitkyina talks had been proposed by the KIO, whose 10-member delegation was led by Sumlut Gam.

Sumlut Gam agreed that the commission would help to diffuse clashes.

“The KIO deeply believes that the current ongoing problems need to be solved through face-to-face discussions,” he said.

“We also need to discuss how to avoid fighting in the future. We hope that representatives from both sides can hold discussions with transparency and goodwill.”

Clashes killed at least 22 combatants from both sides last month, according to official media, since the April launch of a government mop-up operation against the rebels in the south of Kachin state and the north of neighboring Shan state.

Ongoing process

Thein Zaw, a member of parliament for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) who attended the meeting, called for a quick resolution to fighting in order to proceed with a broader nationwide cease-fire plan that the government is negotiating with all of the country’s rebel groups.

“We have discussed and agreed to several issues,” he said.

“We need to implement these agreed-upon issues quickly. The quick implementation could lend support to the [broader] peace process.”

The Nationwide Cease-fire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents the KIO and 15 other rebel groups, is set to meet with government negotiators later this month in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon to discuss plans for a nationwide cease-fire agreement.

The Irrawaddy online journal quoted M-Seik Chan, a central committee member of the New Mon State Party observing the talks, as saying that the peace commission agreed to on Tuesday would be tasked with observing troop movements on both sides and establishing who is responsible in future clashes.

Talks on how the commission would be implemented were “ongoing” and the two sides “did not reach an agreement yet on who will participate in this monitoring group,” he told the Irrawaddy.

Some 200 people joined Tuesday’s meeting—the third between the KIO and the government since May last year—including observers from the United Nations, the Chinese government, and other ethnic armed groups which are members of another rebel umbrella group the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).

In addition to forming a peace monitoring commission, the KIO and government negotiators agreed to hold another meeting in the future, although no date was set for the talks.

Nationwide cease-fire

Hla Maung Shwe, a negotiator from the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), told RFA’s Myanmar Service that Tuesday’s meeting had allowed the two sides to “hold open discussions” and “find ways to solve problems … by building trust.”

“We need to decrease the problems between us, although we might not be able to end all of the problems after only one day of discussions,” he said.

“All stakeholders should collaborate to work on peace. The next step is the nationwide cease-fire that we have been working on together with the NCCT.”

He said that while he has hope the meeting will reduce tensions, it is unlikely fighting will end between the two sides in the short-term.

Nai Hong Sar, head of the NCCT, told the Irrawaddy that recent clashes between the military and the KIA had badly damaged trust at an important point in negotiations for a nationwide cease-fire.

The NCCT and government negotiators have agreed “in principle” on a draft agreement, but much of the agreement’s wording remains in dispute.

“The KIO has already mentioned that both sides have weaknesses in maintaining and respecting peace agreements. But the government side did not mention this yet,” Nai Hong Sar said of Tuesday’s talks.

“From one side, we try to have talks, but another side uses armed force. This does not show a genuine desire for peace in the country. We all are human beings. No one is happy when their people are suffering from fighting.”

Relief groups say some 5,000 people have been forced from their homes by fresh clashes since early April, on top of more than 100,000 forced to flee since a 17-year peace agreement was shattered in June 2011.

Reported by Kyaw Myo Min, Kyaw Zaw Win and Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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