Tue 12 Mar 2013
Filed under: Ethnic Issues,Inside Burma,News
United Wa State Army (UWSA) was blocked by Chinese authorities from attending peace talks between the Union Peace-making Working Committee and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in China yesterday. The UWSA that is a successor to the largely defunct Burmese Communist Party (BCP) is Burma’s strongest armed ethnic group with an estimated strength of more than 30,000 troops.
The UWSA’s Deputy Chief of Staff Zhao Zhongdan and spokesman Aung Myint, were supposed to attend the meeting as observers, but were denied permission to travel to Ruili, according to the Burmese news journal the Weekly Eleven. At the time of press it’s unknown why the Wa representatives were blocked by China.
But a number of other ethnic armed group representatives already in ceasefires with the government were allowed to attend as observers. These included: David Tharckabaw; Karen National Union (KNU), Khun Okka; Pao National Liberation Organization (PNLO) and Brigadier-General Sai Lu; Shan State Army South. Aik Shar La and Kham Maung of the Mong La based National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) also attended, as well as New Mon State Party (NMSP) Chief Nai Htaw. Nai Htaw also serves as chairman of the of United Nationalities Federal council (UNFC); a coalition group representing most of the country’s ethnic armed groups.
Sumlut Gam, head of the KIO’s education department, led the group’s delegation during the talks. Kachin Independence Army (KIA) vice chief of staff General Gum Maw was also in attendance.
The government delegation was led by former general, Aung Min, now serving as President Thein Sein’s chief negotiator. Accompanying Aung Min were several senior military officials. These included: Lit General Myint Soe, Northern Command Chief Brig General Tun Tun Naung and the Kachin state minister for Border Security Colonel Than Aung.
The meeting started at 9 am and went until nearly 1 am. However a joint statement that was released afterwards indicated that there were no major breakthroughs. Both sides agreed to meet again and continue working towards a solution to the conflict that has been running for over 21 months since a 17-year ceasefire was broken on June 9, 2011. Also in agreement (in principle) was the decision to jointly ‘monitoring’ the conflict. Although this was extremely ambiguous and no details were provided as to what this would exactly entail.
The KIO and the government peace time have already met both formally and informally 13 times since the fighting started.
In the lead up to the talks, KIO sources reported that the Burma army was sending large numbers of troop reinforcements to front line positions across Kachin state. Some observers suspect that they are planning a large scale offensive against the KIO prior to the upcoming rainy season.