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‘We are not working only for ourselves’: KIO

(Interview) – The Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organizations have been unable to agree on a cease-fire after weeks of negotiations. Mizzima reporter Phanida interviewed KIO Joint Secretary La Nan on what clarifications the KIO is seeking from the government and the issues that are preventing agreement.
Question: What issues are preventing the signing of a cease-fire agreement?

Answer: We have asked about President Thein Sein’s attitude toward the KIO and also his views on the Panglong Agreement obligations. Also we have asked for clarification of the level of government officials leading the government’s negotiating team, and how the government interprets the word “peace” [permanent peace].
They have told us that our demand for a nationwide cease-fire within 15 days of signing an agreement and engaging in a dialogue gives their government little room for maneuver. They proposed to change this time limit to one month or replace it with a “speedy announcement.” Then the government will form a committee for permanent peace within a month of issuing an official notification. This committee would take part in a political dialogue and would be led by USDP party leader Thein Zaw.
Q: There are rumours that the KIO has signed an agreement with the government. Is that true?

A: No, we didn’t sign. Our vice chief of staff talked about the terms that should be included in the agreement, three or four points. For instance, upon signing the agreement, there would be a halt in fighting in Kachin State and adjoining areas in order to build a permanent peace. They accepted these terms. But it’s still a long way to actually signing. We shall sign the agreement only after the government replies to our queries clearly.
Each point discussed by our vice chief of staff was accepted by them. The KIO accepts the temporary cease-fire in principle, but we demanded a nationwide cease-fire too. That is accepted in principle too, but before signing the agreement with mutually accepted terms and principles, they must answer our queries and must say clearly how they accept our demands. They have not answered these questions clearly so far, so an agreement has not yet come into force. We have not yet signed the agreement.
Q: What did the government offer the KIO? Did it offer any special privileges in return for signing the agreement?

A: We will not accept any give and take in reaching this agreement. Our organization does not enjoy special economic privileges. We just want the emergence of a prosperous country and to engage in a political dialogue about the powers of each state in the Union.
Q: How long do you think it will take it for an agreement to be reached?

A: We have not yet given our assurance in advance for signing the agreement. So it is too premature to talk about signing an agreement.
Q: Can you describe the other points on which you’ve reached agreement?

A: They still need to clarify their replies with more details. The BBC misinterpreted what we said earlier. The BBC said that we had reached a cease-fire agreement, but in fact we agreed only on some points and terms that would be included in the agreement. As I said before, there are many more points to be included.
Q: If a cease-fire agreement is signed, will it be signed only by the KIO?

A: In signing the agreement, the KIO and the government will sign first for the settlement of the current fighting in Kachin State. And then they must announce a nationwide cease-fire and schedule a political dialogue. And after that, the fighting in Karen, Shan and Karenni states will stop.
After the nationwide cease-fire is implemented, the political negotiations will include the KIO and the UNFC, which represents all ethnic forces. This political roundtable will depend on how they see the obligations of the Panglong Agreement. The UNFC will lead the political dialogue talks.
Regarding the cease-fire negotiations now, there will be only two sides, the KIO and the government. We are trying to extend it to a nationwide scale. If this is accepted, the fighting will cease in Kachin State first.
Q: The UNFC will take over the political dialogue for a nationwide cease-fire after the KIO signs a cease-fire agreement?

A: Yes, but who will represent the UNFC on the negotiation team has to be discussed thoroughly. They (UNFC) will select the delegates to represent the ethnic groups.
Q: Some observers say that the negotiations have been delegated to the state government. Does that mean the Union level itself is not handling the Kachin cease-fire issue?

A: We did not discuss this issue in detail. The state negotiating team sent by them is generally accepted as representing the central (Union) level, working in a gentlemen’s agreement style. We discussed this. Aung Thaung and Thein Zaw are issuing instructions on the working negotiations.

The negotiating team is a state-level delegation but they work under the instruction and advice given by the union- level leaders. Also, Thein Zaw and Aung Thaung have access to President Thein Sein.
However, this delegation has limited powers, but if it gives us assurances and promise that our ethnic forces can accept, we will sign the agreement and will advance to further stages. What's lacking are more details from them to satisfy our concerns.
Q: What level of government officials will sign the agreement? State-level government officials?

A: If the state government says they can represent the central government, we shall sign at that level. We don’t say who must represent them. If they are really delegated by the central government, we don’t need to stipulate which level must come and sign. Who gives the mandate is more important. That’s why we asked them who determines what the negotiation team can say and do?
Q: If the peace issue with the KIO is deliberated in Parliament, can the KIO take part in the deliberations?

A: The MPs from Kachin State will raise this issue in the Parliament on August 22. They said that. We didn’t say anything about raising our issues in Parliament. Our political line is not the parliamentary line.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts?

A: If you carefully listen to what our vice chief of staff told the BBC, you will find there is nothing wrong about what he said. We are working for a nationwide cease-fire. We are not working only for ourselves.
Last Updated ( Friday, 12 August 2011 12:49 )  
The Kachin’s last stand
Since October this year, Burma has been in a state of civil war, with fighting between Burmese military and armed ethnic rebels. The ruling junta started a crackdown on these armed groups.

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