A delegation of Karen leaders recently travelled to Naypyidaw to meet with President Thein Sein and the head of Burma’s armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing. DVB’s Naw Noreen talked to the Karen National Union’s joint-secretary-2 Mahn Mahn, who travelled with the group, about ethnic reconciliation and the ongoing conflict in Kachin state.
What did the Karen National Union (KNU) delegation discuss with General Min Aung Hlaing and President Thein Sein?
We discussed the ongoing peace-building process in Karen state, how to end the conflict in Kachin state and other ethnic regions, as well as ways to promote political dialogue. We talked with both the president and the commander in chief on all these issues.
The KNU is the first armed group to meet with the commander in chief. What does he think about the ethnic armed groups?
He talked about how to continue the peace effort. He believes engagement with the ethnic groups, especially regarding military and ceasefire issues, has been about 75% successful and promised to continue working towards complete success.
Seventy-five percent, as in with the KNU or all ethnic groups?
We assume he meant the whole ethnic issue.
Did you say anything about the air attacks in the Kachin conflict?
We did mention it; [the violence in Kachin] shouldn’t be this extreme. They said the [air attacks] were only targeting supply and communication routes and that there was no intention to seize Laiza, the Kachin Independence Army’s headquarters. We believe that a ceasefire should be developed through cooperation between the alliance of ethnic nationalities [The United Nationalities Federal Council, UNFC] and the Burmese government.
However, while General Min Aung Hlaing said there was no intention to attack Laiza, we heard reports about 70 artillery shots fired in the direction of Laiza yesterday. Do you have anything to say about it?
We have to review this – and try to solve these issues in any way we can. We think the UNFC needs to follow up on this. Once communication is established, there will be a solution of some kind.
Do you think the Kachin conflict, while other ethnic groups are engaging peace talks, is a hindrance to the peace process?
In order to have political dialogue, a truce must first be established. Only when a truce is properly established, can one progress to political dialogue. So it is necessary to make sure that there is a well-established ceasefire first, whether it is with the Kachin or the Karen, then we can make way for political dialogue. At the same time, we should start making efforts to initiate this dialogue and for that the United Nationalities Federation Council and the government’s peace makers are planning to meet in the second half of this month. We hope this will let us start with political dialogue.
Why do you think the Kachin conflict has not been resolved?
It seems like both the KIA and the government are only playing the blame game with each other whenever they meet – which puts them in a stalemate.
How do the president and the commander in chief think of the peace process?
The commander in chief said he will work hard to bring peace and that the process is about 75% accomplished. With the president; it seems that his approach to political dialogue differs to ours. The president thinks solutions should be found in the parliament, whereas we have asked them to also facilitate political discussions outside of the parliament.
And did he agree with that?
He didn’t respond to that. But according to the peace brokers, there will be an ethnic convention outside of the parliament in the future and we hope that [these issues] will be discussed.