Myanmar holds peace talks with ethnic groups

This handout picture released by the Myanmar Peace Centre on February 4, 2013 shows Minister of the President's Office Aung Min (3rd L back, writing) along with government officials holding talks with representatives of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the Chinese border town of Ruili. Myanmar's reformist government held peace talks with a federation of ethnic groups to try to resolve issues

Myanmar's reformist government on Wednesday 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 groups including the Kachin, met Minister of the President's Office Aung Min and other officials in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

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.

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.

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