In a video speech directed at her fellow National League for Democracy (NLD) party members yesterday, Aung San Suu Kyi indicated she is willing to take part in peace talks between Burma's government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
“I have been criticized by some people for not taking part in peace talks regarding the Kachin conflict. I have always said I am willing to take part in the peace process if the concerned parties wanted me to,” AP reported Aung San Suu Kyi as saying.
Aung San Suu Kyi has said little about the Kachin conflict since fighting began in June 2011. The reluctance of the NLD leader and her colleagues to condemn numerous alleged army abuses against Kachin civilians has left many Kachin disillusioned with the Nobel peace prize winner.
In an essay written last month the head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, blasted Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD for not doing more about increasingly bloody conflict in Kachin state. According to Roth, Suu Kyi and the NLD have “not pressed the military to curtail, let alone prosecute, war crimes being committed against the ethnic Kachin population as part of continuing counterinsurgency operations in the north.”
Aung San Suu Kyi's video message indicating her willingness to participate in talks appears to be a shift from statements she made last year in which she suggested she would only take part if the government specifically invited her. It remains uncertain however if Burma's internationally renowned dissident will participate in the next round of peace talks which are scheduled to take place at the end of the month.
Earlier this month representatives of the Chinese government attended peace talks between the KIO and Burmese government officials in the Yunnan border town of Ruili. While the NLD was absent from the talks representatives of the Karen National Union (KNU), the Shan State Army-South and Myanmar Egress, a self-described civil society organization, attended the meeting. Harn Yawnghwe, head of the Euro Burma Office and the youngest son of Burma's first President, also attended the meeting.
The speech was released to coincide with Union Day, a national holiday in Burma which commemorates a 1947 agreement General Aung San reached with leaders from Burma's ethnic Chin, Shan and Kachin communities.
The potentially ground breaking Panglong agreement promised Burma's ethnic nationalities a fair amount of autonomy over their own affairs in exchange for their support for Aung San's quest to secure Burma's independence. Aung San’s assassination just months later brought an end to most of what had been agreed to at Panglong, his successor U Nu never fully implemented the agreement in particular the promise of local autonomy. U Nu did pay superficial homage to Panglong by making the annual anniversary of the agreement a national holiday in 1953.
Since a 17 year cease-fire between Burma's government and the KIO ended some 19 months ago, the KIO has repeatedly asked to have political talks with the government using the Panglong agreement as a framework. The government side has in turn rebuffed these efforts.