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Kachin rebels in peace talks

New hope as negotiations resume with government

February 4, 2013

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The government held peace talks on Monday with insurgent Kachin Independence Army representatives in the Chinese border town of Ruili as fighting continued in northern Myanmar.

The government has bombarded the rebel stronghold Laiza with artillery and air strikes in recent weeks, prompting complaints from China over shells falling across the border, since the last round of talks on December 23.

Although recent fighting around strategic hill positions close to Laiza has eased, the rebels say that skirmishes continue in Hpakant town in Kachin state as well as neighboring Shan state.

“This meeting is just a preliminary step which we hope will lead to real political dialogue between us and the government,” said La Nan, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), adding that Chinese officials had attended the talks as witnesses.

Leading government negotiator Aung Min and Gun Maw, the KIA’s deputy military chief, led the talks.

President Thein Sein has signed or renewed a number of ceasefire agreements with the country’s armed ethnic groups, including the Karen on the Thai border, scene of the world’s longest-running civil war.

But the failure of the Myanmar military to halt attacks against the Kachin has led analysts to speculate over a lack of consensus between the army and former general Thein Sein. The situation has prompted international criticism despite recent praise for rapid political and economic reforms.

The KIA has demanded greater political rights for the Kachin following the end of a 17-year ceasefire in 2011, the same year Thein Sein became president.

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