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Kachin conflict damaging trust in peace talks

Apr22 zyh ncct

NCCT leader Naing Han Thar seen at peace talks in Yangon on April 5. 

Renewed fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is harming mutual trust as the government attempts to negotiate a nation-wide ceasefire deal with a dozen armed groups. 

Naing Han Thar, one of the leaders of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) — a coalition of ethnic rebel groups in negotiations with the government — called the fighting dishonest at a time when peace talks were on the table.

“I don’t know the root cause of the fighting. From the military point of view, the intensification of fighting is dishonest at a time when a series of peace talks are taking place,” said Naing Han Thar.

Fighting broke out on April 10 when the Myanmar Army attacked various KIA positions around Mansi township and northern Shan State in an offensive that lasted until April 18. The army says it has been eradicating timber smuggling while the KIA says it is an attempt to control strategic routes around their strongholds. 

The next peace meeting between the NCCT and the government’s Peace-making Work Committee is scheduled for May 10. 

A senior official from the Myanmar Peace Center has said that coordination meetings will be held on April 26, 27 and 28 but could not say whether the recent fighting will cause a delay or not. 

“The fewer the clashes, the better for the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement as the peace talks are concerned with the whole country,” said Hla Maung Shwe from the Myanmar Peace Center. 

“I still believe that a ceasefire deal will meet with success,” he added. 

The spokesperson of the Kachin Independence Organisation — the political wing of the KIA — has also said that the ongoing fighting is harming the mutual trust necessary to negotiate a nation-wide ceasefire. 

Daung Khar, who was part of a technical team involved in previous peace talks with the government, reiterated his support for the peace process adding that he did not want efforts to cement a nation-wide ceasefire quashed because of the ongoing clashes.  

“We cannot make it through battles. We will have to achieve the success through political dialogue,” said Daung Khar.

“All the armed ethnic groups are involved in writing a single text [of the ceasefire agreement]. But the government’s attacks have mainly targeted Kachin. The mutual trust has greatly been harmed. But we don’t want the situation gridlocked. Not only Kachin but also the whole nation must pass the ceasefire process,” added the spokesperson.

The KIA's deputy commander-in-chief Major General Gwan Maw recently urged the United States to get involved in the peace process during his recent trip to the U.S.

"We would like to have the U.S. present at the peace process as a witness, so this agreement will become strong," Gwan Maw told the Reuters news agency on Monday. 

The general added that an independent monitoring group, formed by foreign as well as local observers, was necessary to make sure the ceasefire is respected by all sides.  

"We hope powerful countries can give advice and necessary assistance and get personally involved throughout the whole program," said Gwan Maw.

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) — a political alliance of ethnic organisations — have reviewed the ongoing fighting in Kachin State and the question of ongoing peace talks in Chiang Mai, Thailand on April 22.  

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