Senior officials in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said they will not attend talks this month in Myitkyina, the Kachin state capital, because the government was unwilling to address last month’s deadly shelling.
Khon Ja, an activist from the Kachin Peace Network human rights group, told The Anadolu Agency on Thursday, “we can’t force the talks if the Myanmar army have no desire for peace.”
An officer from the KIA’s political wing was cited by a local news website the day before as saying the group would not attend December’s talks since the government had not responded to requests to solve the problem.
“Our meetings are held with the aim of reducing conflict and preventing future conflict, but they shot and killed our troops even though we have ongoing meetings,” he told the Irrawaddy.
Among the dead in the Nov. 19 shelling were members of other rebel groups including the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army.
The KIA is one of the last of the country’s major ethnic groups to sign a ceasefire agreement with Myanmar’s reformist government, which has pledged to secure a nationwide peace deal before an election late next year.
More than a dozen rebel militias have spent decades fighting Myanmar’s military junta for greater autonomy. But there were hopes of reconciliation after a nominally civilian government came to power in 2011.
Those hopes have since cooled as negotiators have struggled to find common ground during talks amid repeated flare-ups in fighting in ethnic areas.
The shelling of the training facility has heightened tensions further, bringing the estimated death count, according to rebels, to 300 over the past three years, with 400 more injured.
The military claim that the shelling was accidental, and that it had only meant to fire warning shots.
The KIA counters it was a deliberate attack as government troops could clearly see recruits training in the compound from where they were stationed.
The British ambassador in Yangon has described the incident as a “real setback” to the peace process.
Over 100,000 people have fled to camps for internal refugees in mountainous Kachin state since the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire agreement in 2011.