Myanmar holds peace talks with ethnic groups

Al Jazeera
Myanmar holds peace talks with ethnic groups
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Myanmar holds peace talks with ethnic groups

Myanmar's government has held peace talks with a federation of ethnic groups to try to resolve issues including the conflict in the northern state of Kachin.

The United Nationalities Federal Council, which was formed by about a dozen ethnic minority groups including the Kachin, met government officials in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai on Wednesday.

In a brief statement afterwards, they said the "frank and friendly" talks aimed to map out a framework and timeframe for political dialogue, and pledged to hold another round of discussions within two months.

However, Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Chiang Mai, said "Kachin officials have been quietly critical of this meeting, dismissing it as a mere meet-and-greet situation - so much so that they haven't sent any senior representatives from Kachin State."

Myanmar's quasi-civilian government has reached tentative ceasefires with a number of ethnic rebel groups since taking power in early 2011. But several rounds of talks with the Kachin rebels have failed to reach a breakthrough.

The government held fresh talks with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in China earlier this month, with both sides agreeing to try to reduce military tensions and continue dialogue.

The Kachin, who are fighting for greater autonomy, say any negotiations should also address their demands for more political rights.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIO's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, broke down.

Fighting escalated in December, and the Myanmar military has used air strikes against the rebels.

Last month the government announced a unilateral halt to its offensive but the Kachin have accused the military of flouting the ceasefire.

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