Ethnic Kachin rebels have urged Myanmar’s military to end operations in their war-wracked state to bolster contact between the sides, a Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) spokesman said on Saturday.
Several rounds of talks to resolve the conflict in the country’s far north have been overshadowed by ongoing battles and relations between the sides are threadbare.
KIO spokesman La Nan said the government had recently pushed new units into the territory. “(The government) should stop launching offensives in Kachin State. If they do the situation in Kachin state will stabilise at some point,” La Nan told AFP.
“Relations with them (the government) have almost been cut,” he said, adding that renewed dialogue is possible if both sides show “restraint”.
Tens of thousands of people have fled the fighting since June last year when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and rebels collapsed, with an estimated 5,000 seeking refuge in neighbouring China.
China has been heavily criticised by rights groups for forcing the refugees back over the border into Kachin.
Fighting between the KIA — the armed wing of the KIO — and government troops, coupled with China’s reluctance to allow in those fleeing the violence, mean refugee numbers in camps around Kachin have swelled to around 150,000, an independent peace negotiator told AFP.
Warning of a “real crisis”, Yup Zaw Hkaung, a businessman acting as a peace negotiator, said: “As both sides have not decreased the fighting, people are getting hurt and are caught in the middle.