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Myanmar invites armed groups for peace talks

(Xinhua)

09:02, August 19, 2011

YANGON, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Myanmar central government Thursday invited anti-government ethnic armed groups for peace talks to end internal dispute and build peace in the country, the state radio and television reported.

According to the official announcement, armed groups in favor of peace are urged to contact respective regional or state government as a preliminary step for the peace talks with the central government, the announcement said.

The peace talks offer came a day after Myanmar President U Thein Sein outlined new policy dealing with armed conflicts with ethnic armed groups and dissidents staying in and out of the country.

He reiterated that the door to peace remained open after recent armed clashes between the government and the ethnic armed group of Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The Myanmar government has been making efforts to transform former anti-government ethnic armed groups that have made peace with the government under the new state constitution.

Hard negotiation was underway between the government and KIA after recent clashes.

Since 1994, 17 major anti-government ethnic armed groups and 23 other small groups have made peace with the government. Of them, 15 groups laid down arms completely, five were transformed into government's border guard forces and 15 into militia.

However, five groups rejected to be transformed, namely, KIA, United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democracy Alliance Army (NDAA)-Mongla, New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Kayin National Union( KNU)-U Htay Maung group.

Armed clashes between the government forces and KIA in northernmost Kachin state broke out in early June near a power project site of Tarpein and intermittent fighting is going on along with hard negotiation.

The clashes intensified as seven people have been shot dead and another one injured in a latest gun fire launched by the KIA on Aug. 2.

Since the beginning of the skirmishes until Aug. 8, KIA destroyed 84 bridges including four railway bridges. Three motor vehicles were blasted and put ablaze and three motor vehicles were robbed. KIA's landmine killed 17 people and injured 26 others with 166 civilians abducted, according to official claim.

The last negotiation was on Aug. 1.

KIA once returned to the government's legal fold in 1994 under ceasefire agreement.

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