Talks Between Govt, KIO Have Moved Online During COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has said that they’ve been holding discussions with the Burmese government online during the COVID-19 pandemic in lieu of official meetings and negotiations, a spokesperson for the organization said.

“Official political talks have halted due to COVID-19 pandemic. But we have communication with them online. We discuss with them online,” the in-charge of the KIO’s information department Col Naw Bu told NMG.

Lamai Gum Ja, who is working with the Kachin Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG), said that they have been in talks to re-start talks between the groups, including the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed organizations, which includes the KIO, Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

“We are trying to hold a meeting between the Northern Alliance, the government and the army. We are mediating between them,” he told NMG. “Currently, it’s difficult to hold a meeting in person amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so they are exchanging opinions and letters at the moment.”

The groups have been in talks to negotiate the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government and military.

The government and the Northern Alliance held four meetings in Shan State toward a potential ceasefire, including one in Muse in April 2019, one in Mongla in June 2019, and two in Kengtung in August and September 2019.

Meetings then stopped due to difficulties negotiating meeting venues and times, and later travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government and the Northern Alliance agreed to seven points in the final meeting in Kengtung. These included committing to negotiations to end ongoing clashes, further discussing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, establishing a military code of conduct, opening communication channels and liaison offices, and employing efforts to resolve the ongoing displacement crises.

According to Northern Alliance members, the issues deadlocking discussions around a bilateral ceasefire agreement include the repositioning of troops and the formation of a conflict-monitoring committee. The Burma Army has asked the Northern Alliance forces to withdraw their troops from current positions; the Northern Alliance has asked that Chinese representatives be present in a conflict-monitoring committee.

The four members of the Northern Alliance are also members of the negotiation body the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC).