By Shwe Aung
A newly-formed government committee has requested the resumption of talks with the warring Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in a bid to negotiate an end to often brutal fighting in Burma’s northern state.
A letter was sent to the rebel group on Friday last week, according to deputy commander-in-chief of the KIA, Gun Maw. “The letter informed that they [government] have formed an 11-member group to hold talks with us and for us to respond to them.”
The committee, led by Railway Minister Aung Than, who has been appointed to spearhead negotiations with ethnic armies, appears to have been specifically created to build dialogue with the Kachin army.
The war in Burma’s northernmost most state, which began in June following the KIA’s refusal to become a government-controlled Border Guard Force, has come at great human cost, with tens of thousand displaced and evidence of severe human rights abuses by Burmese troops.
The US-based Physicians for Human Rights said in a report last month that there was evidence of the use of civilians, including children, as human minesweepers, and the killing of “non-military targets” by firing “automatic weapons directly into a civilian village.”
Despite several attempts at brokering a ceasefire, and a recent order from President Thein Sein that Burmese troops stop offensives against the Kachin, fighting continues. On Friday last week, troops shot up a church in the Kachin village of Thingahyang and razed two houses.
Such acts have stoked concern about whether the KIA could bring itself to effectively pardon the Burmese army by signing a ceasefire. Gun Maw said however that the group is “always open for talks as long as they will be transparent.
“Now that they have approached us, we will give it serious consideration and start making plans [to respond].”