The Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) held a meeting about COVID-19 prevention in KIO territory on May 20 in which government forces gave protective equipment to the KIO.
The KIO’s information department reported that their deputy chairperson Maj-Gen Sumlut Gun Maw said that COVID-19 prevention could be a starting point for peace building.
“We will get trust from cooperation between us. We hope that can move forward with this trust. Even though this is an informal meeting, this is our message that we want to send to the [Tatmadaw’s] commander-in-chief and top leaders,” Maj-Gen Sumlut Gun Maw said.
The meeting was held in the village of Maisak Pa, and attended by a Tatmadaw delegation led by Maj-Gen Khun Thant Zaw Htoo, who works in the office of the commander-in-chief. A Burma Army helicopter delivered 59 packages of protective equipment to the KIO.
“Mainly, we want to show our goodwill and trust. We are thankful for this meeting. We give this assistance filled with our goodwill. Therefore, the KIO can use it,” Maj-Gen Khun Thant Zaw Htoo said in the meeting, which was broadcast on Laiza TV.
Duwa Lamai Gum Ja, who works with the Kachin Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG), said that they negotiated the convening of this meeting between the Burma Army and KIO.
On May 13, the Kachin State government offered 5.7 million kyat (around US$4,000) to the KIO for use at quarantine facilities in KIO territory, but the KIO did not accept the funds under the current conditions.
There have been multiple reports of interference by the Burma Army in COVID-19 prevention activities by ethnic armed organizations, including destroying medical checkpoints belonging to the Karen National Union in Karen State and making threats against locals for accepting health assistance from the Restoration Council of Shan State in Shan State. In addition, the Burma Army has waged an intensifying offensive against the Arakan Army in Rakhine State.
“Even though we are optimistic about the meeting, it’s important that Burma Army not take advantage of this meeting,” Kachin activist San Htoi told KNG. “I think they will have further meetings between the Burma Army and the KIO. I don’t think it will change much in the near future. According to my experience, I don’t believe the Burma Army,” she said.
On March 23, the Burma Army threatened the KIO through the Kachin PCG, saying that they could possibly launch an attack on KIO territory if the Arakan Army maintained a presence there.
The KIO is a member of Northern Alliance alongside the Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. Peace negotiations between the government and the alliance have halted.