China to Mediate Myanmar, Kachin Peace Talk

The Associated Press reports Myanmar’s government and the Kachin Independence Army will hold talks in China on the border town of Ruili:

Khon Ja, an activist with the Peace Network, said the army fired four artillery shells at one rebel post a few kilometers (miles) west of Laiza on Sunday. A day earlier, they attacked a rebel post at Lawa Yang, just to the southwest.

Government forces are “trying to harass us,” said Sgt. Brang Shawng, who is deployed at Lawa Yang. “They are trying to draw us into a fight, but we are under strict orders not to fire back.”

Referring to Monday’s talks, Brang Shawng said: “We hope there will be a truce so peace will come, but nobody thinks this is going to end soon.”

Monday’s meeting was confirmed by a Independence Army officer and a civilian official working with the government’s negotiation team. The officials declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.

This comes after China sent Kachin refugees trying to escape from the violence back to Myanmar. In the upcoming talks, China will mediate the meeting, according to Reuters:

The KIA said in a statement the Chinese government “will take a role as a witness and mediate during the meeting” adding that it urged “the Kachin community, our friends and supporters around the world to pray for our leaders.”

The talks could reduce tensions in a conflict that has displaced tens of thousands of civilians and seen an unprecedented use of fighter jets and helicopter gunships, an escalation that has worried China, which borders Myanmar.

A lasting truce could be hard to reach, however, and would require at least one party to soften its stance. The government first wants a ceasefire deal signed, which the KIA has refused to do until concrete terms of a political deal are offered.

Since late 2011, Myanmar has agreed ceasefires with 10 rebel groups, including the Karen National Union (KNU), which had fought the central government since 1949 in what was the world’s longest-running separatist insurgency. The conflict with the KIA is the only one yet to be halted.

Read more about China’s relation with Myanmar, via CDT.

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