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Myanmar MPs call for end to Kachin conflict

January 18, 2013
NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar’s parliament today approved a motion calling for a halt to fighting between the military and rebels in the northern state of Kachin which has marred optimism about the country’s political reforms.

The conflict between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) – has escalated recently with the use of air strikes by the military.

The proposal to halt the clashes and resume ceasefire talks, submitted by Kachin MP Doibu of the Unity and Democracy Party, was passed by a voice vote in the lower chamber, house speaker Shew Mann announced.

“To implement the peace process, the proposal was approved to urge the responsible organisations and the government to start peace dialogue as soon as possible after immediately stopping the fighting between the KIO/KIA and government troops,” the speaker and former general said.

It was unclear whether the motion would have any effect on the ground, despite its approval by a legislature dominated by the military and its political allies.

President Thein Sein’s government said a year ago it had ordered the military to halt offensives against ethnic minority rebels, but the Kachin conflict has shown no sign of abating.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down.

Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government has reached tentative ceasefires with a number of major ethnic rebel groups, but several rounds of talks with the Kachin have shown little tangible progress.

The KIA said on Monday that three civilians were killed in an artillery attack by the military on its stronghold town of Laiza near the border with China. The government denied the allegations.

The Kachin clashes, along with communal unrest in the western state of Rakhine, have overshadowed dramatic political changes in Myanmar since its widely praised emergence from decades of army rule in early 2011.

The KIO accuses the government of pushing dialogue only on the basis of a ceasefire and troop withdrawals, neglecting to address longstanding demands for greater political rights.



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