Wednesday, January 23, 2013

UNFC offers to liaise with Burma govt on Kachin conflict

Wednesday, 23 January 2013 17:16 AFP

A federation of Burmese ethnic groups said Tuesday it had agreed to hold talks with the government to try to end the conflict in the northern state of Kachin.

PNLO chairman Khun Okkar, left, and Aung Min, the government peace team leader, opposite. Photo: Mizzima

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), which was formed by about a dozen ethnic groups, expects to hold talks with Burmese peace negotiators by mid-February, possibly in Thailand, said UNFC spokesman Khun Okker.

“The upcoming meeting will focus on the Kachin situation because of the serious fighting there,” Khun Okker, chairman of the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation, told AFP by telephone.

“The first meeting is likely to be held in Thailand,” he said.

“The meeting could be before mid-February. KIO [Kachin Independence Organisation] leaders will be there and the Kachin issue will be discussed,” he added.

There was no immediate comment from the government or the KIO.

Burma's quasi-civilian government has reached tentative ceasefires with a number of ethnic rebel groups since taking power in early 2011. But several rounds of talks with the Kachin rebels have failed to reach a breakthrough.

The Kachin rebels say any negotiations should also address their demands for greater political rights.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIO's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, broke down.

The government on Friday announced a unilateral halt to a recent offensive against the Kachin but fighting continued over the weekend.
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