Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter asks Kachin to sign ceasefire agreement


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Former US President Jimmy Carter at a press conference in Strand Hotel, Yangon

In a meeting with two Kachin activists, former US president Jimmy Carter reportedly asked KIO and Kachin to participate in upcoming ceasefire agreement between Burmese government and ethnic armed groups.

Two Kachin activists, Khon Ja and Hkawn Htoi (also known as May Sabe Phyu), from Kachin Peace Network (KPN) met the Elders led by former US president Jimmy Carter, former Finland president Martti Ahtisaari and former Norway prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland on Sept 26 at 3:30 pm. The meeting lasted for about an hour.

During the meeting, Jimmy Carter urged KIO and Kachin not to miss the historic opportunity and government’s offer for a nationwide ceasefire as UN, International Governments and Security Council will witness the event, said Khon Ja of Kachin Peace Network.

She said, “We had some difficulty explaining our perspective to the Elders as they met President Thein Sein, Commander in Chief and officials from Myanmar Peace Center just before us. It was a big challenge telling our concerns.” She said the Elders were too optimistic about change in Burma and preoccupied with words they had heard from Burmese government officials. “Jimmy Carter kept telling us KIO should sign ceasefire agreement even though we are not KIO’s representatives and hardly gave us a chance to express our view”, said Khon Ja.

Hkawn Htoi, another representative from KPN said, “we all want peace but the time is not right for a nationwide ceasefire agreement as government has not taken proper steps that lead to a ceasefire agreement and neglected civilians’ concerns. She said, “We do not know how the ceasefire agreement will be implemented and who will guarantee that agreement”.

Jimmy Carter said during a press conference at Strand Hotel in Yangon on Thursday that they met government’s peace negotiator U Aung Min who had done a superb job. U Aung Min is   quoted as reporting to the Elders that he has been successful in negotiations with all ethnic groups except two. According to Jimmy Carter, the supposed date for signing a nationwide ceasefire accord has been changed to November or December from what U Aung Min has previously said it would take place in October.

An objective of the Elders’ visit is to encourage the peace process between the government and ethnic minority armed groups, stated in the Elders’ website.

A press release on Thursday by the Elders said, “The Elders encourage a comprehensive resolution of the ethnic conflicts in the country including a political dialogue involving all relevant parties”. Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, said “For Myanmar to reap the benefits of peace, careful attention will need to be given to how the factors underlying conflict are managed, in particular the contest for land and other natural resources.”

Local Kachin civilians who have been through previous ceasefire period are reluctant to support KIO to participate in upcoming nationwide ceasefire accord. Kachin State has been militarized by Burmese army after KIO signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. Burmese army dramatically increased its presence threefold in Kachin State from 24 Battalions in 1994 to over 60 Battalions in 2011.

After 1994’s ceasefire, local residents had high expectations that peace would bring economic development and better livelihood. However, with increased presence of Burmese military and cronies, serious deterioration of forests was seen and natural resources were over-exploited in Kachin State. During this 17-year period, more youth became addicted to drugs than ever before.

Kachin community organizations and leaders are asking for Burmese army to withdraw its troops and remove extended frontline posts in order to show government’s sincerity and genuineness for a ceasefire and national reconciliation. Leaders of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), which comprises of 11 ethnic armed groups, questioned government’s intention for a nationwide ceasefire while several battles took place between Burmese army and ethnic armed groups who had signed ceasefire agreements with State and Union level delegations.