UNFC talks with Aung Min “frank and friendly”
Thursday, 21 February 2013 09:22 Written by Kachin News Group
UNFC held a meeting in Chiang Mai in last year.
Talks in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai on Wednesday between representatives of a coalition of Burma's armed rebel groups Union National Federal Council (UNFC) and a team led by the Burmese government's chief peace negotiator Aung Min were “frank and friendly”, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting's conclusion. Both the UNFC delegation and the government side agreed to take part in a further series of meetings expected to be held in two months’ time.
The UNFC is a 11 member grouping consisting of most of Burma's armed ethnic rebel groups including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) who have been engaged in heavy fighting with Burma's military for the last 20 months. While Nai Hong Sar, general secretary of New Mon State Party (NMSP) officially led the UNFC delegation yesterday, the KIO is widely seen as the leading force in the UNFC which was formed 2 years ago.
During a brief press conference held after the meeting Aung Min suggested that tensions with the KIO had been reduced significantly over the past three weeks. "It is an indicator of the success we have achieved since we have released a joint statement on Feb. 4 and since then all the fighting has stopped. We plan a follow-up meeting in the near future," said the former general turned civilian politician. Aung Min made these comments while sitting next to the KIO’s General Secretary Dr. Lahkyen La Ja.
Despite Aung Min's optimistic outlook some fighting between the KIO and the army has continued over the past weeks and it remains uncertain how much influence Aung Min and his superior President Thein Sein actually command over the army, which did not send representatives to take part in the meeting.
The talks held at Chiang Mai's Holiday Inn hotel were financially supported by the Nippon Foundation, a conservative group often described as Japan's largest charitable organization. The group's multimillionaire chief Yohei Sasakawa, who also serves as Japan's goodwill Ambassador to Burma's ethnic people attended the meeting along with several of his aides. For many years Sasakawa, whose controversial father Ryoichi Sasakawa founded the foundation, was a leading a proponent of engagement with Burma's military regime.