KNU ‘not ready’ for Union Day truce

KNU ‘not ready’ for Union Day truce

The Karen National Union (KNU) has announced that it is not yet ready to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement on Union Day.

Saw Mahn Mahn, joint-secretary of the KNU, one of the major rebel forces in Burma, told DVB that in a four-day meeting from 3 to 7 February, the group’s central committee drew up a list of points of contention that need to be addressed if a truce is to be signed.

“We identified four issues that are yet to be resolved in order to reach a nationwide ceasefire. The first regards a basic principle on the forming of a federal union and a federal army. Secondly, we need to negotiate a point in the roadmap [framework for political dialogue] that specifies the unification of all armed groups,” said Saw Mahn Mahn.

“The third issue is about the rules and code of conduct for the ceasefire that are yet to be agreed upon. Lastly, conditions for the post-ceasefire period – administrative and judicial issues – must be negotiated ahead of the political dialogue.”

On Tuesday, a KNU delegation met for a discussion with President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw ahead of a Union Day dinner, which is to be hosted by the president on Wednesday, 12 February, Burma’s 68th Union Day, and will be attended by representatives of ethnic groups.

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The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Wednesday that the Karen delegation, led by Mutu Say Poe, spoke with President Thein Sein about: “adding new momentum to ongoing peace talks for the speedy realisation of public desires for stability and peace.”

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by union ministers Aung Min, Khin Yi, Than Htay and Ye Htut, and the chairman of the governmental Union Peace-Making Work Committee (UPWC), Thein Zaw.

KNU delegates included Saw Kwe Htoo Win, Saw Isaac, Saw Htoo Htoo Lay, and Saw Damular.

In a radio speech in October last year, Thein Sein warned that successful elections in 2015 and political transition must follow a nationwide ceasefire agreement. However, talks on such an agreement between the government and ethnic armed groups have been stalled since September.

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) – a coalition of armed groups – has previously stated that a ceasefire agreement must be preceded by a preliminary agreement on the formation of a federal union.

The UPWC and ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) agreed at a meeting in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai last week that ceasefire talks would recommence this month. The talks are set to resume in Rangoon within one week of Union Day.

Following last week’s meeting, Minister Aung Min told reporters that that an imminent signing of an agreement on union-building is unlikely. “Just think about it – the UNFC is made up of 16 different organisations. They haven’t even established mutual ground between themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting between the Burmese army and combined forces of ethnic armed groups including the Ta-ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army, Kachin Independence Army, and the Kokang armed group Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army continued in northern Shan State. The TNLA has alleged use of military aircraft by Burmese forces in the violence.

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