News / Asia

'Breakthrough' Peace Plan for Burma's Kachin

Burmese government negotiators meet with representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization during their third day of cease fire talks in Myitkyina, Kachin State,  May 30, 2013.
Burmese government negotiators meet with representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization during their third day of cease fire talks in Myitkyina, Kachin State, May 30, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
A tentative peace agreement between Burma's government and Kachin rebels has been hailed as a breakthrough after recent intense fighting along the border with China.  The pact is one of the last to be reached with armed ethnic groups, raising hopes of a nation-wide peace.  But trust is still lacking and some ethnic groups want Britain and the United States involved in future negotiations to guarantee a lasting deal.  

The peace deal marked the first time Kachin rebels met Burma's government and military in government-held territory.

After three days of meetings in Myitkyina, the Kachin state capital, the two sides agreed to work at a cease-fire and repositioning troops to prevent further bloodshed.

They also agreed the rebels' political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, would base a team of negotiators in Myitkyina for further technical discussions.

Min Zaw Oo, the director of cease-fire negotiations and implementation at the Myanmar Peace Center, attended the talks.  He says, most significantly, Burmese authorities agreed to a political process beyond a cease-fire, a key demand of the KIO.

"Cease-fire agreements in the past do not include political settlement or not even a political discussions.  But, this time the government already proclaimed that this discussion doesn't stop short at cease-fire agreement and that will lead to a political dialogue, toward a political settlement," said Min Zaw Oo.

The two sides also agreed to continue relief, rehabilitation, and resettlement efforts for internally displaced people in Kachin.

Over 100,000 Kachin villagers were displaced since a 17-year cease-fire was broken in June 2011.  Each side blames the other for starting the fighting.

Min Zaw Oo was speaking Friday by phone from a relief camp just outside of Myitkyina.  He says all the displaced people his group talked to have high hopes the agreement can lead to a lasting peace so they can go home.

"A lot of people believe that both sides have reached a point that we can call a breakthrough, especially because this is the first time they can meet in front of representatives, including the community leaders in Kachin state," he said.

The Kachin Independence Army, the KIO's military wing, is the last major rebel group to agree to a preliminary peace deal.

Since taking office from a military government in 2011, President Thein Sein signed agreements to end fighting with numerous ethnic armies, though sporadic clashes still break out on occasion.

The KIO is to hold one-on-one talks with Burmeses negotiators ahead of broader negotiations with other rebel groups for a nationwide cease-fire.

But despite the peace pact with the Kachin, lack of trust is still a major obstacle.  

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) is a coalition of 11 armed ethnic groups, including the KIO.  

The UNFC met in February with Burmese negotiators in Thailand but refused to take part in the Myitkyina talks, though several of its members attended.  

UNFC joint general secretary Hkhun Okker says the group feels Burma's military leaders still cannot be trusted.

"Now is only fourth or fifth time for cease-fire called by U Thein Sein government.  Before we have General Khin Nyunt called cease-fire.  Before, we have General Ne Win call cease-fire.  Many time we have [calls for cease-fire].  But, all the agreements are later never honored by the other side," said Okker.

Hkun Okker agrees the Myitkyina peace deal is a positive sign.  But he says the government needs to enforce a nationwide cease-fire, declare a general amnesty for rebel leaders, and allow Western observers at peace talks.

Min Zaw Oo says the negotiation was aided for the first time by the presence of a United Nations representative, special rapporteur Vijay Nambiar.

"His participation definitely helps build up confidence among parties and also among Kachin public that the talk is not just superficial, that it's genuine and that aims to move to a broader political settlement and lasting peace," he said.

The KIO had originally insisted the negotiations also include observers from Britain and the United States.  

Hkun Okker says the ethnic groups want Western powers present to act as a guarantee and to balance the influence of China, which was represented at this week's talks.  

"You know, U.N. is very flexible and sometimes rather weak to implement in some parts.  At the same time, China is very very pro government of Burma.  They have big national interests inside Burma.  So, we cannot say they are neutral," he said.

The cease-fire was broken in Kachin by fighting near Chinese-financed dam projects.  

Critics say China's extraction-oriented investments in the region have fomented tensions as both sides seek to secure areas rich in natural resources.

Beijing is keen to prevent unrest and refugee flows spilling across its border.  

Burmese air strikes near the border in December were widely condemned internationally and led to protests just inside China.

China hosted several previous rounds of peace talks between the KIO and Burmese authorities.

A spokesman for China's embassy in Burma, Gao Mingbo, attended this latest round and spoke to VOA by phone from Myitkyina shortly after the agreement.  He says efforts by the Chinese over the past few months paved the way for the negotiations in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

"This issue concerns the border security of China.  So, we want to see a direct, or face-to-face talks, between the Burma government and the Kachin side.  And, I think that helps to build or to strengthen the military trust between the two sides.  And, also, that is essential for eventual peace agreement," said Gao.

Burmese media say China objected to Western nations participating in the Kachin negotiations and future talks that would include other rebel groups.  

Gao declined to say whether that is true. He referred to language in the agreement, which says the parties must agree if they wish to invite additional observers in consultation with each other.

The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon issued a statement Friday welcoming the agreement as constructive and encouraging.  

It also expressed deep concern about the safety and well-being of displaced civilians in Kachin and urged all sides to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to those in need.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid