Burmese armed groups eye ‘real Union’

Five Burmese ethnic armed groups have said they will work together to achieve a ‘real Union’ in Burma where equal rights and self-determination exist for all ethnicities.

The alliance spans Burma’s ethnic border regions, taking in the Chin National Front in northernmost Burma to the Karen National Union (KNU) in the east, close to Thailand. It also includes the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Karenni National Progressive Party.

James Landau, foreign affairs coordinator of the KIO, told DVB that the agreement “was just the beginning”, and the alliance would look to draw in other ethnic armies. He added that the aim “was not to attack the military junta; in fact we aim to draw the government to our side”.

The idea of the alliance was first tabled during the National Convention, which began in 1992 after the Burmese government refused to hand power to the winners of the 1990 election, the National League for Democracy party.

The National Convention was put on hold however and the formation of an alliance failed to materialise. But with the junta’s recent aggressive attempts at transforming ceasefire armies into Border Guard Forces and bringing them under the control of the Burmese army, the need for unity among these groups appears to be more acute.

The majority of the country’s 18 ceasefire groups have refused to transform and have been threatened with military action. The junta is looking to consolidate its support base prior to elections this year and gain greater control of Burma’s volatile ethnic regions.

A similar agreement in 1997 between a number of groups gained the support of imprisoned Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

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