As talks between Burma’s government and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) representatives continued this week in the Chinese border city of Ruili, the military continues to advances into KIO- controlled territories. During the week government forces have repeatedly been shelling Lawa Yang village, located near Laiza, according to a report from the Free Burma Rangers (FBR).

On Sunday morning, Burma army units stationed at Bum Re Bum, northwest of Laiza, fired 4 artillery shells at a KIA post.  This happened despite that both sides were slated to meet the following day for peace talks.

A convoy of more than 40 trucks carrying army reinforcements and supplies was also spotted last weekend heading north past a former KIO check point at Kambaiti (also Kampaiti), located east of Myitkyina. The trucks appeared to be heading towards Pangwa, an area that has seen heavy fighting over the last few months.

Observers say Burma’s military is deliberately making provocative gestures to pressure the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)  into striking back therefore justifying further offences by government troops.

The peace talks between the KIO and the government took place in Ruili on Monday. Both sides have agreed to meet again, possibly later in the month.

During this meeting, unlike in October when the KIO only sent mid-level representatives, the KIO sent Sumlut Gam, central committee member and General Gum Maw, KIA vice chief. The government side was led by President Thein Sein’s chief Negotiator Aung Min and Livestock Minister Ohn Myint, both were generals with the former military regime led by General Than Shwe.

The meeting was also attended by the Karen National Union’s (KNU) newly appointed Chairman Mu Tu Say Poe and General Secretary Kwe Htoo Win. It’s unclear what role KNU leaders will have in current and future peace talks. Mutu Say Poe is reputed to be closer to the new government than his predecessors. Late last year, he was briefly expelled from the KNU for attending a meeting with Aung Min against the wishes of the KNU’s central committee.

Chinese government officials were also in attendence during the recent peace talks between the KIO and government, as well as representatives from European Union (EU) who supported Myanmar Peace Centre. Hla Maung Shwe, a businessman affiliated with the Myanmar Egress think tank was also present. Another noted observer included, Harn Yawnghwe of the Euro Burma office. Harn Yawnghwe is the son of Burma’s first president Sao Shwe Thaik. RCSS/SSA Senior representative and Chief- liaison Officer Sai Lu also attended.

Monday’s meeting appears to be the first time that Chinese officials are known to have attended peace talks between the government and the KIO. In the past, Chinese officials attended many of the previous meetings between Burma’s government and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) – Burma’s strongest armed group and  successor to the now defunct Beijing backed Communist Party of Burma (CPB).