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Myanmar hails ‘breakthrough’ peace deal

Seven-point agreement struck with Kachin

<p>Troops from the Kachin Independence Army pray in northern Myanmar (AFP photo/Soe Than Win)</p>

Troops from the Kachin Independence Army pray in northern Myanmar (AFP photo/Soe Than Win)

  • John Zaw, Mandalay
  • Myanmar
  • October 10, 2013
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Myanmar government peace negotiators on Thursday reached a tentative peace deal with ethnic minority Kachin rebels that could pave the way for an end to fighting in the country’s north.

The two sides met on home soil for the second time since fighting erupted nearly two and a half years ago.

“We can say that it is a breakthrough and a step forward for a nationwide ceasefire as we could agree more details about the structure of joint monitoring committee and the KIO’s plan on holding conferences with other ethnic groups for nationwide conference,” said Min Zaw Oo, a director of the EU-funded Myanmar Peace Center, who took part in the talks in the Kachin state capital, Myitkyina.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, also joined the meeting for the second time as an observer, along with five Chinese officials and representatives of other ethnic minorities.

The last peace talks in May reached a seven-point agreement such as de-escalation and cessation of hostilities, although sporadic fighting has since broken out. President Thein Sein's government has agreed tentative ceasefires with most of Myanmar's ethnic rebels as part of its reforms.

Among the agreements this week are plans to resettle nearly 100,000 civilians displaced by the fighting, reopening of roads in the conflict zone and meetings between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the public.

La Nan, spokesperson for the KIA, hailed the seven-point agreement signed today, but warned that “what we have been demanding is political dialogue”. The KIA wants to come to an agreement with the government over development of the resource-rich state, which suffered due to destructive investment, mainly in the minerals and energy sector, during the ceasefire period up to June 2011.

The Kachin have long argued that negotiations should address their demands for more political rights as well as greater autonomy.

Despite the talks, a tense standoff occurred between troops from both sides in southern Kachin state this week, forcing 130 villagers to flee to refugee camps.

The bloodshed in the northern state of Kachin, bordering China, along with religious unrest elsewhere in the country, has overshadowed widely praised political changes as Myanmar emerges from decades of military rule.

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