01/31/2014, 00.00
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Burmese leaders: "Political dialogue for peace." But conflict rages on in Kachin State

by Francis Khoo Thwe
The Burmese government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi hope talks will lead to a national "ceasefire" by March. Part of a plan of national reconciliation for a modern and democratic Myanmar . However, conflict continues to rage on in the northern State: this morning renewed clashes between the army and rebel militias.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - "Political dialogue" between the government and armed ethnic groups is the only way to silence the weapons the ten-year separatist war for independence. This is the belief of the chief negotiator of the Burmese President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi , in view of a possible national "ceasefire" to be achieved by the end of March. The goal is an important test for the path of peace and democracy that the nation has been undertaking since 2011, after decades of military dictatorship. However, in spite of good intentions tension continues in the northern state of Kachin , where this morning there were heavy clashes between the two sides.

Naypyidaw's chief negotiator Minister Aung Min hopes that political dialogue will end "within a couple of months", after the achievement of a "cease-fire" that is a harbinger of a lasting peace". The political dialogue - he told Radio Free Asia (RFA) - can lead to a permanent peace". Speaking from Chiang Mai, where he met with key leaders of ethnic minorities in recent days, he adds that "only when there is a stable peace, can we create a fully fledged democracy" and there are "positive" developments.

Aung San Suu Kyi believes the country is at a "critical moment", but the agreements reached to date between the government and representatives of different ethnic minorities are not enough. Much remains to be addressed, such as the unresolved legacy of 50 years of military dictatorship and tensions remain with some groups. The political dialogue, warns the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), has to be based on " sincerity" and "compromise" and must cover "all" groups. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner is due to participate in the final round of talks, scheduled in Hpa -an , Karen State , in March , though she says "I have not yet received the official invitation".

In spite of official statements of goodwill by the government peace still seems a distant hope in many areas. In particular, in the northern state of Kachin , bordering China, inhabited mostly by Christians (Catholic and non), the tension is still high and there are incidents of violence and serious clashes between the two sides. Sources tell AsiaNews that "this morning at 7 o'clock there was a violent battle" between the Burmese army and the Kachin militias "in the village of Man Gau, in the town of Mansi".  At the moment we have no further information on casualties or injuries.

Myanmar is made ​​up of over 135 ethnic groups with a history of turbulent coexistence, to the point that the military dictatorship used an iron fist against the most recalcitrant, especially in northern Kachin. The new conflict between government troops and rebel militias of the Kachin Independence Army (Kia) - the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization ( Kio ) - broke out in 2011, and has caused dozens of civilian casualties and at least 100 thousand displaced people, the vast majority civilians. The leaders of the independence movement and representatives of the central government in Naypyidaw - led by President Thein Sein - have launched numerous peace initiatives, none of which have ever produced tangible or lasting results.

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