Thursday, April 19, 2012

KIA members defect to Burmese government

Thursday, 19 April 2012 13:57 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – Burmese government authorities said 42 Kachin Independence Army (KIA) members defected this week, as peace talks between the sides moved forward at a slow pace.

A group of 35 members surrendered with 23 weapons on Monday, and another seven defected on Tuesday, sources said.

KIO peace delegates, left, and Burmese government officials in talks on March 9 in Ruili, China, in Yunnan Province. Photo: Kachin Net

Government authorities described the KIA defections as “exchanging arms for peace.”

Since November 2011, three rounds of peace talks have taken place between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in Ruili, in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, but there have been no signs of progress. The two sides have agreed to continue the talks.

Much of the KIO negotiations have focused around broad issues of equality for ethnic groups and regional autonomy, issues long valued by ethnic groups trying to establish a federal union in which they are given more control over their political and cultural affairs.

Earlier, KIO Brigadier General Gwan Maw told Mizzima the KIO wanted to solve the problems that have led to decades of fighting, and the signing of a cease-fire agreement could take a back seat while political issues are sorted out.

“We believe that the fighting is the consequence of political problems.  We believe that the problems must be solved politically, not by the military,” said Brigadier General Gwan Maw.

Whether a cease-fire will be achieved or not will depend on the discussions, Gwan Maw said. Normally, ethnic armed groups and the government sign a cease-fire first and then engage in political talks.

Armed clashes between the two sides continue to flare up, despite an order by President Thein Sein for government troops to stand down. The fighting has forced displacement of about 60,000 refugees in the area, according to the KIA and humanitarian groups.

Since the president's peace offer was extended in August last year, a total of 12 armed ethnic groups have signed preliminary cease-fires or peace agreements at the state or central level.

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