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Former rebel leader sees hope in talks

But meeting is 'no guarantee of security or the rights of ethnic people'

Former rebel leader sees hope in talks
Kachin villagers displaced by fighting between the government and KIA soldiers
John Zaw, Mandalay

March 9, 2012

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A former leader of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) said yesterday that he is hopeful that ongoing negotiations between the government and the Kachin could achieve an end to fighting. A government delegation met with Kachin leaders yesterday for the latest round of peace talks in the border town of Ruili in China. Tu Ja, former vice-chairman of the KIO, said he held a “positive view” of the negotiations and that success would depend on finding the root cause of the conflict. “The conflict has been happening among the same people within the country, so it is not impossible that we could solve it through compromise, mutual trust and balance,” he said yesterday. Sources in Kachin state say they have seen no indication of fighting between government troops and soldiers from the Kachin Independence Army, the military wing of the KIO. Tu Ja, who will contest an April 1 by-election in the constituency of Mogaung in Kachin state, said internal peace must be the highest political priority. The unity of the state and improvements in development and infrastructure depends on the ability of both sides to reach a sustainable peace, he said. President Thein Sein said earlier this month in a speech that the government was determined to negotiate with all ethnic opposition groups in three stages, which include ceasefire, political negotiations and parliamentary conference. Government and Kachin leaders have met previously for peace talks in Ruili in November last year and in January. An outbreak of fighting in June last year ended a 17-year-old ceasefire agreement and led to the displacement of tens of thousands of residents, who fled to makeshift camps along the Burma-China border.

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