KNU signals desire to exit PPST as ceasefire body flounders

KNU signals desire to exit PPST as ceasefire body flounders

The Karen National Union (KNU) has said that it is no longer possible for its group to cooperate with the Peace Process Steering Team – a body of ten EAOs formed to oversee the implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) —  due to conflicting political stances. 

The KNU’s elder statesman chairman, Gen. Mutu Say Poe — who signaled his unilateral support of the NCA during a recent summit in Chiang Mai — at the same talks said that the Karen EAO had been attempting to exit the PPST since 2019.

Since then, the PPST is said to have requested the KNU remain a member, leading the EAO to send a limited number of token representatives to meetings over recent years.

The KNU’s decision is likely to be premised on a view that negotiations with the latest junta are futile, even detrimental to the struggle of Burma’s ethnic groups: an idea validated by the actions of the military over decades of failed peace talks. 

Despite this, the PPST has, since the coup, appeared increasingly supportive of a return to the negotiating table, refusing to endorse Burma’s National Unity Government and Civil Disobedience Movement. 

“Our main position is that we do not accept the military coup at all. There is no need for political dialogue or talks because the military council is not recognized at all. However, when participating groups are not united, the PPST status is not very relevant to us. The political situation has completely changed and our position has too. Whether we are allowed to leave or not, we are not able to be part of that community,” KNU spokesperson, Padoh Saw Taw Ni, told DVB

In Chiang Mai on April 3, representatives approved proposals for what the group termed its new “seven political objectives” — a roadmap calling for all-inclusive political dialogue” and, hence, a political solution to the current crisis. Myo Win, the vice-chair of the All-Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), a signatory to the NCA, said that this blueprint will be submitted to all parties to the current crisis, including the NUG and SAC.

The latest PPST is backed by a dwindling number of smaller EAOs, notably the New Mon State Party, whose vice-chair Nai Aung Min was recently elected leader, the Pa-O National Liberation Organization, the ABSDF, and the Arakan Liberation Party. The Chin National Front (CNF) is party to the group, yet, due to the EAO’s explicit endorsement of the NUG’s vision of armed struggle, it remains to be seen how long the PPST can maintain its support. Like the KNU, the CNF did not send representatives to the recent talks in Chiang Mai.

In what could be another potential death-knell for the PPST, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) — a major signatory whose leader Yawd Serk was PPST chair under a year previously — on April 5  told The Irrawaddy that the group would not send a representative to sit on the group’s latest committee. Despite “upholding the principles” of the NCA, the EAO said that it was choosing to focus more resources on the political crisis in Shan State. The RCSS has recently become embroiled in renewed conflict with forces from the Shan State Progress Party and Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

“We also hold that the political crisis should be solved politically. But who do we talk to when the NCA has been proven to not work at all? The military council seized power, it is not legal. We did not have any reason to go and talk to them. At this time, we really only need to talk to a government that has gained legitimacy, that is the difference between us and them,” Padoh Saw Taw Ni said. 

At present, the KNU is cooperating with the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) whilst supporting resistance groups across the country in operations against the military.