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Story Publication logo November 2, 2009

KIO Calls for Discussion of Panglong Agreement

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The Himalayan foothills of northern Myanmar form the ancestral homeland of the Kachins, an ethnic...

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The Oct. 31 deadline for the ethnic cease-fire groups in Burma to disarm has passed quietly in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) capital of Laiza.

Observers are focused now on the ongoing KIO-junta negotiations.

After the junta rejected all nine negotiation proposals submitted by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the KIO has changed its negotiation tactics.

A Kachin soldier on duty at a guard post at Laiza. (Photo: Ryan Libre)

The tenth proposal—appealing to the principles outlined in the Panglong Agreement—appears to have put the junta on the defensive by asking it to respect a power-sharing agreement signed by the government and ethnic groups in 1947.

The Panglong Agreement, a one-page document, states the central government will not "operate in respect to the Frontier Areas in any matter which would deprive any portion of those areas of the autonomy which it now enjoys in internal administration."

From the first Constitution in 1947 until today, the promise of internal autonomy for the outlying ethnic areas has never been fully realized, say Kachin sources.

KIO Vice Chairman Gauri Zau Seng, KIA Vice Chief of Staff Gen Gun Maw and others are expected to meet with the junta's Northern Command in Myitkyina during the first week of November to discuss the latest proposal. The meeting could be the first of many to discuss the meaning of the agreement and how it might apply to the current political negotiations.

This is the first time the military has been willing to discuss the Panglong Agreement since seizing power in 1961, say observers.

A Kachin cultural and political historian said, "If you give us the full meaning of that agreement—the human rights and ethnic minority rights stated on that paper—we will surrender."

A KIO source said, "Now we are back on the right track, but we are not sure how far it will go."

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