Myanmar President U Thein Sein met with members of the Kachin Independence Organisation in a groundbreaking meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on March 16.
U Nyo Ohn Myint of the Myanmar Peace Center reports that President U Thein Sein said in the meeting: “You and I can make war. Similarly you and I can make peace. A death, whether a death of KIO soldier or a death of a government army soldier, is a loss to the country. So let us peacefully proceed along the democratic path for the sake of the citizens and the Union.”
This was the first official meeting with the KIO since President U Thein Sein took power in 2011.
The KIO delegation also met for the first time with Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham and, later in the day, with Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Since 2011, military clashes have taken place between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army, the military wing of the KIO.
In November 2014, 23 cadets at a KIO officers training camp in Laiza were killed by Myanmar army artillery shelling, dampening hopes of reconciliation.
According to political analyst U Than Soe Naing, the meetings between the top leaders of both sides could greatly help Myanmar’s peace process.
“The meeting with the KIO, which has fought against the government army, is a good sign for the seventh round of the ceasefire talks. I think they had to make difficult decisions to get this result,” he said.
U Hla Maung Shwe, a senior official of the Union Peacemaking Work Committee, told Mizzima that the KIO’s first meeting with President U Thein Sein and Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham was a good sign.
“The KIO came here under a mandate of the Central Committee. They said they have already established a policy to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Anyway, negotiations will need to be made,” he said.
An official from the KIO told Mizzima that the meetings offered great prospect for a nationwide ceasefire and mutual trust can be built up.
On March 17, the KIO, along with other ethnic armed groups, will attend the seventh round of nationwide ceasefire talks to be held at the Myanmar Peace Centre in Yangon.
After a ceasefire agreement is finally signed, the door will be open to political dialogue.