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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More