Demanding We Cut Ties With Arakan Army is ‘Not the Right Approach,’ KIO Says

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has criticized a Burma Army demand that it terminate its relationship with the Arakan Army (AA) as the wrong way forward in the current political crisis.

The message was sent to the KIO from the head of the Burma Army’s Northern Command, who delivered it through a meeting with the Kachin Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG) on March 20, along with a threat that the Kachin headquarters in Laiza could be attacked if there was determined to be an AA presence there. Three days later, the AA was branded a “terrorist organization” by the National League for Democracy government.

The KIO insists that the AA has not made Laiza its headquarters but have engaged in trainings there.

“From our perspective on the issue with the AA, the military’s way of solving the problem is not the right approach. We responded this way to the army,” Col Naw Bu, who is in charge of the KIO’s information department, told NMG.

Col Naw Bu maintains that the KIO will address armed conflict through negotiation and notified the head of the Northern Command of this through a letter.

“We will continue to move forward with political dialogue,” he said of the KIO’s approach.

The KIO also has informed the members of the Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee about both the threat and their response, but have reportedly not received a response. The negotiation bloc includes the AA, KIO, United Wa State Army, Shan State Progress Party, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – Kokang (MNDAA), National Democratic Alliance Army – Mongla, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Col Naw Bu said that the Burma Army’s demand and their response to the KIO could likely affect future peace talks.

“If the army and government do not accept it, so it will impact on peace talks. On the other hand, we are ready to talk with them,” he told NMG, referring to the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed organizations, which the KIO, AA, MNDAA and TNLA are members.

Lamai Gum Ja, who works with the Kachin PCG, pointed out that the Northern Alliance members have been trying to negotiate for a bilateral ceasefire agreement with government forces, but that talks have been put on hold.

“At the moment, they cannot resume talks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why they cannot meet each other. Then the government declared the AA a terrorist organization. They are still in negotiations for a meeting,” he explained.

Ethnic leaders and political analysts have voiced concern that the government’s declaration of the AA as a terrorist group will impact any future peace talks with other organizations, as well.

During the political standstill, Burma Army and the AA troops have still been engaged in intensifying clashes in both Rakhine State and Paletwa Township in Chin State.