A Karen National Union (KNU) delegation urged Burma’s President Thein Sein on Wednesday during a meeting in the capital to run for president in the next election as he has been deeply involved with the peace process negotiations.
Led by the organisation’s chairman Mutu Say Poe and General Saw Johnny, the commander-in-chief of the KNU’s armed forces, the delegation arrived in Naypyidaw on Monday to meet with the president. According to Mahn Nyein Maung, a member of KNU’s central committee, the delegation pushed for Thein Sein to head the Union Solidarity and Development Party in the following presidential term.
“We suggested to the president that he assume leadership of the country for the second term because he is the one who initiated the ongoing peace process,” said Mahn Nyein Maung. “He and his ministers who are leading the negotiations have the best insight on the situation so it is likely we will have peace sooner if they continue to lead the effort.”
Thein Sein responded that although he is not in very good health, he will continue working if “the people desired it,” Mahn Nyein Maung said.
The government has long struggled to bring the country’s ethnic armed groups to an agreement to set down arms, and the process of negotiations has been hindered by attacks on both sides in various states. Currently, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) – which comprises 16 ethnic armed groups – and the government negotiating body, the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) are working to flesh out a nationwide ceasefire agreement.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Burma’s military, also met with the KNU delegation and told them that he wants a nationwide agreement implemented as soon as possible, said Mahn Nyein Maung.
“The senior-general told us that the Tatmadaw [Burmese military] will assist with the basic factors in democratic reforms to ensure the tranquillity, unity and development of the country,” said Mahn Nyein Maung. “He also expressed a wish to have no individual or group left behind from the peace process and to ensure inclusivity.”
The delegation also had its first ever meeting with with parliament Speaker Shwe Mann on Thursday, he said, who found it to be an encouraging step forward in the KNU’s relations with the government.
“We can call this the start of our engagement with Burma’s parliament, and we are looking to discuss continued cooperation in the peace process,” said Mahn Nyein Maung.
The KNU reached a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government in 2012, but have condemned repeated military action against other ethnic armies, including the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Shan State Army-North.