Monk urges peace in eastern Burma

Sept 30, 2009 (DVB), A senior monk in eastern Burma has urged both sides of the Karen conflict to cease killing and begin negotiations towards achieving peace in the region.

The opposition Karen National Union (KNU) and junta proxy Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) should "take lessons from past consequences", said U Thuzana, abbot at the Myainggyingu monastery in Karen state, in a statement issued yesterday.

The two sides should "achieve reunion and cooperation by the time of [Karen] New Year", in December, he said.

An unnamed DKBA officer welcomed the statement but questioned whether the idea could be achieved.

He said that from the outset, the DKBA doesn't want to attack the KNU but has done so due to pressure from the Burmese government.

"We are being pressured from behind if we do not [fight]" he said. "We Karen all have it in our heart and are determined that one day we will be united."

He added that he thought the majority of DKBA members would listen to the abbot's message. However, a source close to U Thuzana said that DKBA members had ignored his advice about junta-backed transformation into border guards.

The DKBA split from the KNU in 1994 and allied itself with the then ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).

Fierce fighting broke out between the two groups in June this year, forcing some 4,000 Karen civilians across the border into Thailand.

A spokesperson for the KNU, David Thakerbaw, said his group wants to reunite with the DKBA but that the DKBA is only following orders from the Burmese government.

"The DKBA is morally ruined and U Thuzana is not able to control them, as far as I know," he said.

"They are carrying out the wishes of the government. If they have a patriotic spirit and the desire for Karen national liberation, they can come back."

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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