Peace Negotiations, An Oxymoron While Conflict Continues

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is greeted by supporters during a visit to an immigration center in the migrant workers community outside of Bangkok on May 31, in Mahachai, Thailand.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is greeted by supporters during a visit to an immigration center in the migrant workers community outside of Bangkok on May 31, in Mahachai, Thailand.

A new peace negotiating team, led by Burmese Railways Minister Aung Min, arrived at Mai Ja Yang, the second largest town under Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin state, at 3 pm today, according to Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) officials.

The meeting, the first between the KIO and government peace negotiating team in two-months, is intended to be a discussion rather than political negotiations, said a high ranking KIO officer in Mai Ja Yang.The previous meeting with government peace negotiating team led by U Aung Thaung, in Ruili (or Shweli), in China’s southwest Yunnan province, failed to achieve any lasting results. The government wants to sign a ceasefire with the KIO before they will discuss political solutions to the conflict, which started on June 9, after they ended a 17-year ceasefire. There are an estimated 75,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), most living in KIO-controlled territories.

Moreover, Naypyidaw’s leading peace negotiator is scheduled to hold informal talks with a senior member of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Friday amid ongoing fighting between Kachin and government troops in northern Burma.

Although government and KIA officials say they are hopeful they can reach an agreement, there have been reports in recent days that the conflict has spread to the well-known jade mining center of Hpakant. The escalation of the conflict comes less than a month after the formation on May 3 of a new government peace-negotiating team led by President Thein Sein. The new lineup consists of a working committee and a central committee that includes Thein Sein and Burma’s military chief, Vice Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi has embarked on her first international trip since 1988.  She feared that if she ever left Burma’s military government would never let her return home. She put up with 15 years of house arrest rather than risk becoming an exiled irrelevance. Suu Kyi is currently in Thailand to attend a World Economic Forum summit on Friday. Around 2.5 million impoverished Burmese have fled their country to Thailand in search of jobs. Next month she will travel to Europe, collecting while there the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to her in 1991.

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