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Representing the Burmese government, representatives from the Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC) sat down with the ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in Chiang Mai on Thursday to continue discussions about the peace process; however any talk of a ceasefire was overshadowed by the recent shelling of a Kachin training camp by the Burmese army, which left 23 cadets dead and 20 injured.
NCCT Vice-chairman Nai Hongsa said it would now be “completely impossible” to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement by the end of this year following the Burmese army’s deadly assault on the boot camp which was located near Laiza, headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
He said the killing has effectively brought negotiations to a standstill.
Nai Hongsa said Thursday’s meeting in northern Thailand focused on mending the growing level of distrust between the ethnic armed groups and the government.
“The level of trust has plummeted to a new low,” said the NCCT vice-chairman. “Now we must focus on mending the relationship to keep negotiations from breaking down completely.”
The Chiang Mai round of talks was attended by the MPC’s Min Zaw Oo and Hla Maung Shwe, while the KIA’s Vice chief-of-staff Gen Gun Maw Sumlat and the New Mon State Party leader Nai Hongsa headed the 16-member ethnic team.
Although the training camp was run by the KIA, the 23 young cadets who were killed on 19 November were not Kachins, but members of other affiliated militias. Eleven were from the Palaung State Liberation Front, eight from the Arakan Army, two from the Chin National Front, and two from the All Burma Students Democratic Front.
The Burmese military has claimed that the artillery shell that killed the cadets was a warning shot which inadvertently hit the camp.