Kachin ceasefire offer hailed

YANGON: Myanmar has welcomed a ceasefire proposal by Kachin insurgents who have been a target of an army offensive for the past 19 months, media reports said on Saturday.

  • Published: 2/02/2013 at 02:40 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

The government said the proposal could lead to the resumption of peace talks following weeks of renewed violence in a region that borders China and India.

"From the beginning, the government of Myanmar has believed that the genuine peace desired by all can be achieved only through political dialogue," said an official statement published in the state-owned New Light of Myanmar.

Kachin refugees from Myanmar shout slogans during a protest outside the US consulate in Chiang Mai on Jan 25. (EPA Photo)

The government has come under increasing international criticism for failing to end its offensive against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in the Kachin state.

The KIO will seek the support of third-party organisations and foreign countries for assistance toward attaining genuine peace, according to its statement.

Nay Pyi Daw declarted a unilateral ceasefire last month after heavy fighting that included air strikes on rebel positions. However, the rebels said the ceasefire was broken numerous times.

The conflict has left hundreds dead and displaced up to 90,000 people, many of whom have been denied access by United Nations relief organisations and other aid providers.

"The KIA (Kachin Independence Army) will not undertake military activities that may cause problems if the Myanmar army suspends the military offensives," the KIO's Central Committee said Friday.

"The KIO will request assistance from organisations and countries which can help bring genuine peace."

President Thein Sein on Friday hinted that the government was ready to allow UN access to ethnic Kachin refugees.

"We are taking steps to offer effective humanitarian assistance to national brethren in conflict regions and are cooperating with appropriate international organisations," Thein Sein said.

The government is also "committed to cooperating with those organizations facilitating the resumption of peace talks with KIO" he said.

The government has reached ceasefire agreements with 10 other ethnic minority insurgencies snce 2011.

Ending the decades-old conflicts with a dozen insurgencies was one of the conditions Western democracies set for normalising relations with the country that was under military rule between 1962 and 2010.

Kachin is the northernmost of Myanmar's 14 provinces and home to natural resources including precious gems, jade, copper and gold. Ethnic Kachin are predominately Christian Baptists and Roman Catholic in the majority Buddhist country.

The Kachin took up arms against the military government in 1961, and its army has grown to become Myanmar's second-largest non-state ethnic armed group, according to Human Rights Watch. The KIO maintains a civilian administration that acts as a parallel state, the group said.

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