Myanmar wants ceasefire with rebels

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iol news pic Kachin rebels AP File image of KIA (Kachin Independence Army) soldiers from the Kachin ethnic tribe in Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Yangon - Myanmar's parliament unanimously approved a motion on Friday calling for a ceasefire to end fighting between ethnic Kachin rebels and the military in the north which has raised doubts about reforms in the country.

A Myanmar lawmaker said the lower house called for peace talks to end 18 months of fighting that has turned increasingly violent since December as the military has stepped up shelling and air attacks.

The next step in advancing the process was not immediately clear given the new parliament has only sat for a handful of sessions since Myanmar emerged from one-party military rule two years ago.

There was no immediate response from the military or rebels.

The motion comes a day after China rebuked Myanmar over the fighting and called for a ceasefire in response to an artillery shell that flew over its border on Tuesday. It was the second such incident since late December.

China's response suggested growing impatience in Beijing with the Myanmar government's campaign against ethnic Kachins.

The motion was tabled by Daw Dwebu, a Kachin member of parliament, said Thein Nyunt, another lawmaker.

“She proposed that the fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and government troops be stopped immediately and peace talks be opened between the two parties,” he said.

Lower house speaker Shwe Mann told parliament it would not discuss the proposal but rather directly seek the decision of the house by vote, Thein Nyunt told Reuters.

A 17-year ceasefire fell apart in June 2011 when fighting erupted between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar's military, displacing tens of thousands of people and raising doubts about the sincerity of reforms aimed at ending decades of ethnic tensions.

Myanmar's half-century of military rule ended in early 2011 when a quasi-civilian government came into power. A quarter of parliament's seats belong to the military.

New York-based Human Rights Watch last week accused the Myanmar army of “indiscriminately” shelling the town of Laiza in northern Myanmar's Kachin state, killing three civilians.

The United States has also called for a ceasefire and new peace negotiations. - Reuters

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