Karen rebels set date for union-level peace talks

Karen rebels set date for union-level peace talks

The Karen National Union (KNU) is sending a peace delegation to Rangoon for union-level peace talks with the government this Friday.

The team, led by KNU General Secretary Naw Zipporah Sein and the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) Commander General Mutu Saepoe, will focus on conflict resolution and public security.

“Mainly, we will focus our discussion on military affairs and also civil ones such as education, the public’s security and their livelihood,” said spokesperson Pado Kwe Thoo.

In January, the KNU held peace talks with Karen State’s Chief Minister and the Regional Military Commander in Hpa-an, where they reached a preliminary agreement on four key points. These included the ceasefire itself, opening liaison offices, establishing freedom of movement without weapons, and agreeing to hold further talks at the union-level.

Kwe Thoo said the delegation plan to meet with Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi when they arrive in Rangoon, as well as Karen political, civil society and religious groups.

“We learnt the NLD has won in almost all constituencies in the by-elections and we welcome it. We respect the effort [Suu Kyi] made for her country – we will also inform her about her about the progress we have reached so far with in peace making.”

He said the delegation will also meet with Pegu Division’s Chief Minister on 9 April to discuss opening a liaison office in the division’s Kyaukgyi township.

The KNU, after 60 years of armed struggle, finally reached a truce with the government during talks in early January, where they also called for a nation-wide ceasefire. The Shan State Army – North also announced yesterday that they would be holding union level peace talks with the government.

Reports of human rights violations, including forced labour and attacks on civilians in Karen state, have continued since the initial ceasefire agreement was signed in January.

Some also fear that an increase in rights abuses associated with natural resource development will accompany Burma’s economic reform programme. It remains to be seen how Suu Kyi will navigate the policy challenges presented by ethnic conflict.

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