Myanmar’s Kachin rebel leaders have agreed to meet with top government peace negotiators next month in a bid to forge a cease-fire agreement that could pave the way for a nationwide peace accord encompassing all of the country’s armed ethnic groups, negotiation committee members said Tuesday.
The talks will be the first at the central level since a landmark meeting in May and come as the government scrambles to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement by October.
Members of the technical teams of peace negotiators from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the government approved plans for the talks during the second day of their meeting in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina, said Hla Maung Shwe, an adviser for the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center.
“Both the KIO side and the government side want to hold the next discussion in October, so it is likely [it will] be held in the first week of October after leaders of both sides approve doing so,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Aside from the next meeting, the technical teams also discussed efforts to cope with those displaced by the two-year conflict and plans for a joint committee to monitor clashes, he said.
In October, the two sides will also aim for an agreement on maps delineating areas controlled by government and rebel troops, KIO technical team spokesman Daung Kha told RFA after Tuesday’s meeting.
The KIO, a member of the key United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) rebel alliance, is the only major armed ethnic group that has not yet signed a cease-fire pact with the government.
Short of a cease-fire
The two sides signed an agreement in May to reduce violence between their respective forces and create a framework for future negotiations, but the pact fell short of a full cease-fire.
The government has said since earlier this year that it wants to have the comprehensive truce after it reaches accords with each of the country’s 16 ethnic rebel groups individually, and the UNFC, which includes 11 of those groups, has indicated that the peace process cannot move forward until the Kachin reach an accord with the government.
A 1994 cease-fire agreement signed between the KIO’s military wing, which has an estimated 10,000 fighters, broke down when fighting erupted in June 2011.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced in the deadly violence since then, which has overshadowed the reforms Myanmar has undertaken as it emerges from decades of military misrule.
In December, the military’s use of air strikes against the Kachin rebels caused an international outcry, and ongoing skirmishes have been reported in recent months.
Reported by Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.