Opposition group refuses to disarm despite talks

Apr 11, 2009 (DVB), A senior member of Burma's principal armed opposition group has said they will refuse to lay down arms despite agreeing to talks with the government aimed at catalyzing progress towards reconciliation.

Talks between the government and the Karen National Union, whose conflict is thought to be the world's longest-running, have been on the cards for some time.

Thailand, who currently holds the revolving chair of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, has offered to facilitate the negotiations. The KNU have welcomed the offer.

"We have a policy of settling political problems with political means," said KNU vice-president David Thackrabaw, adding that that is a consistent policy of the KNU.

"If they [the government] demand us to lay down arms, then of course the talks will stop."

Earlier this week KNU leaders held a meeting to discuss who will take part in the negotiations. A time and location for the talks has not yet been agreed.

Thackrabaw was reluctant to predict the results of the talks. The KNU has so far held talks on five occasions with the government, but each time they have failed largely because of the junta's request that the KNU disarm.

The junta's leader, Senior General Than Shwe is unlikely to attend the talks. The KNU have demanded that the talks be held in a neutral location.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

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