Mon 23 Jul 2012
Filed under: Inside Burma,Military,News
MORE than one year after fighting broke out in Kachin State, displacing more than 50,000 people and resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Army soldiers, KIA deputy commander-in-chief General Gun Maw talked exclusively with The Myanmar Times at the group’s temporary headquarters in Laiza on July 7.
On December 10, the president ordered the Tatmadaw to halt its offensive against the KIA. But after that the fighting continued.
We know [about the] halting of offensives only from the news. We don’t know exactly whether it was really ordered or not.
The KIO reportedly sent a letter to the government proposing to hold peace talks in April and the government hasn’t responded yet. Is that true?
During the January 18-19 meeting, we gave a proposal letter to U Aung Thaung that included three steps. We have submitted only that proposal and up until now we are trying to discuss it. We have not reached the level of [formal] discussions. We are still trying to see whether [the proposal] will be discussed or how it will be discussed.
Do you think the attitude of the U Thein Sein government towards ethnic armed groups is different from the former government?
The former governmen2t is directly controlled by the Tatmadaw so its approach was different from the current government. The way they work is different and their aims are different. The current government is elected … so they have certain rules to follow and duties to perform. I see that the current government is trying to reform and change – and has a willingness to change.
After President U Thein Sein came to power, two ethnic armed groups – the Shan State Army (South) and Karen National Liberation Army – signed ceasefire agreements with the government for the first time. Why has the KIA not yet reached an agreement?
Because we told the government that we cannot accept signing only a ceasefire agreement. It is the KIO’s belief that all the problems originate from politics. If they agree, we want to have political dialogue. If an agreement is all about a ceasefire and cannot go to political dialogue, we worry that that agreement would be useless. So we want to make a strong agreement – not only a ceasefire but an agreement that covers all the factors – as a means of achieving political dialogue.
If you think the government wants positive changes, why has the conflict lasted more than one year?
There are so many reasons why the fighting started. The fighting takes place because a decision has been made to fight rather than find a solution through political means. Fighting needs to be avoided urgently and we need to think to solve [the conflict] politically.
The UN says there are human trafficking problems in IDPs camps. Is this a problem?
In border areas, [trafficking] can happen. Some are not from camps but crossing borders with their friends or relatives. But there are some people who do it as a business – finding victims in camps. We are trying to control it.
Recently, the UN signed an agreement with the government to prevent underage recruitment. What are the chances of that program being successful?
The child soldier problem will be solved only when the reasons why there are child soldiers are addressed. On its own, signing an agreement won’t solve the problem. There are many reasons why there are child soldiers. It’s best if they totally disappear but it’s important to reduce the number first.
The 2015 election is a little more than three years away. How much change do you expect that to bring?
The 2015 election is very crucial. If the next government really represents the people and prioritises the will of the people, I think our country will [develop] a lot. Or, if the government that takes power in 2015 cannot put first the people’s affairs, then I think our country will remain the same.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t really spoken out about the Kachin conflict yet. What’s your view on that?
She is managing every issue in the country. I’m sure she is waiting for the right time to speak out about the Kachin conflict.
Do you think she has the answer to solving the Kachin conflict?
Even though she is not the answer, we believe that she has ability to lead to an answer to the Kachin conflict.