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China blamed for Kachin peace talks hitch

Invites to UN and US said to anger Beijing

Government and Kachin rebel leaders at an earlier meeting in Ruili, China Government and Kachin rebel leaders at an earlier meeting in Ruili, China
  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • April 8, 2013
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Peace talks over the weekend between the government and Kachin rebel leaders in the northern part of the country were postponed, reportedly due to objections from China that representatives from the United Nations and some Western governments were invited to observe.

“China is trying to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs, contrary to its foreign policy of non-interference in the sovereign affairs of other nations," said Hkun Awng, a Kachin peace mediator of the Peace Talk Creation Group based in Myitkyina. 

Kachin Independence Army (KIA) leaders reportedly told the government late last month that in addition to Chinese observers, officials from the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom and other European governments should be invited to the talks that were scheduled to be held on Saturday in Myitkyina, the provincial city of Kachin state.

China has already sponsored two rounds of peace talks this year in the border town of Ruili in Yunnan Province, after leaders of the KIA asked for credible international observers in their meetings with Naypyidaw.

China refused to join the Myikyina peace talks if other international entities were invited and would not recognize the event if it were held without a Chinese presence, according to a statement released on Saturday by 13 Kachin civil society groups.

“China’s obstructive actions and behaviors have created a state of hopelessness for Kachin ethnic minorities and the majority of Burmese longing for peace,” the statement said, adding that future peace talks between the rebels and the government can deliver concrete results only if international observers such as the United States and European Union can participate in them.

The Chinese embassy in Myanmar said the peace talks delay was primarily due to logistics and reports of Chinese objections lacked "factual basis." 

“As the close neighbor and true friend of Myanmar, China fully respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar and supports the Myanmar government in its efforts to maintain national unity and ethnic harmony,” it added. 

Hla Maung Shwe, an official from the state-backed Myanmar Peace Center in Yangon, told ucanews.com the Kachin peace talks were delayed because the invited international observers “were not ready” to attend.

Hla Maung Shwe, whose group has been playing a leading role in peace negotiations with armed ethnic minorities, declined to comment on the reported Chinese objections. The peace talks have been resceduled for late April.

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