By Zin Linn
The existing Burmese government led by President Thein Sein seems neglecting its own promises – good governance, national reconciliation, poverty alleviation etc. – made during presidential inaugural ceremony. The reason is that the regime is dragging its feet to honor ethnic people’s equal rights or self-determination.
How much time does Burma need to put up national reunion, a transition to democracy and full respect for human rights? The cost of further postponement will be paid in thousands of innocent lives, lost good opportunities and prolonged civil war.
The ethnic Kachin people of Burma as well seriously hope for total ceasefire in order to avoid war crimes in their regions. Besides, they are calling for a meaningful political dialogue among the stakeholders to reinstate peace in the war-torn state.
If the government has a true political reform plan, firstly, it should declare one-sided ceasefire to show benevolence on the war victims or innocent civilians. Government must take into consideration that this war actually is wasting many lives of country’s manpower.
Meanwhile, two days of peace talks between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization concluded in the Yunnanese border town of Ruili in China on Friday (9 March) without a comprehensive peace agreement being reached, according to Kachin News Group (KNG).
However, the civil war that made the country to be outdated has been going on for over six decades. Although the government has been attempting via two peacemaking teams, the major ethnic rebel groups, Karen National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) are still distrustful of the move for political settlement.
The ethnic armed groups do not trust fully on government’s offer for peace talks. The fact is that while offering peace plan, the government has been increasing its deployment of armed forces in the conflict zones. Besides, the Burma Army’s soldiers are roaming freely committing lots of crimes and human rights abuses in the ethnic territories.
The latest round of negotiations took place in the Yunnanese border town of Ruili as Burma’s armed forces and the country’s second largest armed ethnic group continued to clash along a large front line that spans much of Kachin and significant parts of northern Shan state.
According to sources who attended the meeting one of the major sticking points that remains is government delegation’s refusal to accept the KIO demand that issues relating to the political cause of the conflict be addressed prior to a ceasefire being reached.
The government negotiation team was led by retired colonel turned parliamentarian Aung Thaung who is thought to be protégé of ex-military boss Than Shwe, while the KIO delegation was led by Sumlut Gam. During the second day talks, the KIO delegation rejected Aung Thaung’s standpoint that a political dialogue will initiate in parliament after a ceasefire agreement signed, said KNG referring a trustworthy KIO official.
Aung Thaung’s stance comes from the government’s three-step plan – firstly to make ceasefire at state level talks, secondly to establish Kachin ethnic political party and thirdly the ethnic party has to put forward the ethnic questions to the parliamentary assembly where the problems have to solved out in line with the constitution.
According to Mizzima News, KIO Brigadier General Gun Maw, the KIO second commander-in-chief, said the KIO prefers its own three-step process.
The KIO three-step process suggests that the first step would be an agreement on the distribution of troops and their locations. Second step would be an all-inclusive forum similar to the Panglong conference, which would include all ethnic leaders and the government so as to work out long-standing political disagreements. The third final stage would be to put into practice the agreement in whatever form is appropriate, Mizzima said.
“President Thein Sein said that they would have final discussions [on peace] in the Parliament. That is opposite to the way the ethnic people want,” La Nang, a KIO spokesman, told Mizzima.
La Nang indicated that President Thein Sein’s “three steps to peacemaking” differ greatly from the way the KIO believes peace talks should be undertaken.
Following the end of the talks Burmese opposition news group Democratic Voice of Burma quoted KIO spokesman Brig-Gen Gun Maw that one of the other major points of disagreement between the two sides is the future of Burmese army bases in KIO territory.
Over the past 24 hours, government forces launched an offensive against KIO position’s in central Kachin State’s Sinbo region controlled by the Kachin Independence Army’s 5th Battalion, KNG said.
The government’s armed forces are behind war crimes and crimes against humanity. The human rights violations of Burmese soldiers in Kachin State, involving rape, forced labour, torture, the killings of civilians, and religious persecution are grave breaches of international laws.
It is also the duty of the current government to provide humanitarian assistance to thousands of war refugees and internally displaced populations in various ethnic states.