UN envoy attends peace talks in Kachin state
Current round of negotiations aims at building trust, monitors say
Minister Aung Min (second from left) joins Kachin Independence Army representatives as well as UN special envoy Vijay Nambiar and Chinese officials during peace talks in Myitkyina on Tuesday (AFP photo)
Kachin rebels and the government held their first peace talks on home soil in nearly 20 years on Tuesday as the stalled process resumed with the landmark attendance of a UN envoy.
In talks in the Kachin state capital Myitkina, representatives of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and President Thein Sein’s reformist government discussed opening monitoring offices in this troubled region on Myanmar’s northern frontier with China following two years of fighting.
“Military affairs were the main topic of discussion today,” said San Aung, a member of the Peace Creation Group, a monitor at the talks.
Vijay Nambiar, the UN special envoy appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attended the peace talks for the first time, joining Chinese officials and ethnic party representatives.
The latest round of talks was reportedly delayed after Beijing objected to the presence of the UN and western governments when Myanmar invited them to join the talks.
But the Chinese embassy in Myanmar said the peace talks delay was primarily due to logistics and reports of Chinese objections lacked "factual basis."
Previous rounds have taken place across the border, most recently in the Chinese town of Ruili in mid-March.
“It’s a good step forward for trust-building to hold peace talks in our own land,” said Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center, a monitor at the talks.
Thousands of Kachin waved the state flag to greet the convoy of representatives when they arrived in Myitkina on Tuesday morning.
The current round of talks was expected to take place over three days ending on Thursday, said Hla Maung Shwe.
Clashes between government forces and rebels reached a peak late last year when the military conducted air strikes and launched artillery against the rebel stronghold Laiza.
The Kachin rebels are the only ethnic group that still has not signed a peace accord with the government after a previous ceasefire was broken in June 2011, just three months after Myanmar’s new parliament opened.
Some analysts have said that renewed conflict in the area is due to the construction of a new Chinese oil and gas pipeline passing through Kachin state, which is due to start operations next month.
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