Thein Sein, Suu Kyi Meet KNU for First Time

A delegation of KNU leaders holds talks with government representatives at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon on April 6. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

A delegation of Karen National Union (KNU) leaders expressed optimism about Burma’s prospects for peace following their first-ever meetings over the weekend with President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon.

Following the meeting with Thein Sein on Saturday, the KNU leaders said they had constructive talks with the president. They added that Thein Sein had spoken of the possibility of removing the KNU from the list of unlawful associations, as the group had requested.

“We learned that President U Thein Sein is a person who really wants peace,” Naw Zipporah Sein, general secretary of the KNU, told reporters in Naypyidaw after meeting with the President.

The KNU leaders also expressed their positive view on the internal peace and reform process and their desire to participate in the process until success is achieved.

Regarding their meeting with Suu Kyi on Sunday, Zipporah Sein said the KNU representatives were able to exchange views about the peace process with Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) colleagues and hoped to cooperate with the opposition leader in the near future.

At a meeting with a Burmese government peace delegation led by Railways Minister Aung Min on Friday, the KNU focused on six points, including the need for a nationwide ceasefire and an end to various human rights abuses to ensure the people’s “freedom from fear.”

The KNU has also opened two liaison offices in Pegu and Tenasserim divisions to enable better communication with Burmese governments in the future.

Aung Min told reporters in Rangoon that the two sides are planning to open additional liaison offices in the future.

Immigration Minister Khin Yi told reporters at Sedona Hotel in Rangoon that the government wants to implement the entire peace process through to the end.

“We want to go to a complete process. In our peace process, we want to include a demining project and resettlement program for internally displaced persons and refugees,” he said.

He also said that the KNU’s status as an unlawful association would be changed at an appropriate time, and that it had been imposed under different circumstances.

Naw May Oo Mudraw, a spokesperson for the KNU peace delegation, said that some representatives from both the KNU and the Burmese government visited a local village in Kyaukgyi Township in Pegu Division to learn more about the needs of civilians who had been displaced by decades of conflict between the two sides.

She said about 3,000 residents greeted the KNU peace delegation as they traveled to Kyaukgyi, where one of the KNU’s new liaison offices is located.

She added that the KNU was welcomed by Karen and other ethnic people wherever they traveled within government-controlled territory.

“We got great support not only from Karen people but also from other ethnic people who have suffered from war. They seem to have a great deal of hope that our peace process will succeed and that it will improve their lives,” said Naw May Oo Mudraw.

The KNU delegation also shared its strategy for the peace process with Suu Kyi. The group has been engaging in negotiations with the Burmese government since late last year.

Suu Kyi said she welcomed the peace process, adding that achieving peace within Burma is one of the NLD’s top priorities as it prepares to go to Parliament for the first time later this month following a landslide victory in by-elections on April 1.

The KNU has agreed to continue holding peace talks with the Burmese government. The KNU peace delegation is expected to return to the group’s base on the Thai-Burmese border on April 11.

The KNU signed a ceasefire agreement with the government’s peace negotiation team in the Karen State capital of Pa-an on Jan. 12. The current discussions form the second round of peace talks aimed at cementing an understanding between the two parties.

Founded in 1947, the KNU is the oldest ethnic armed group in Burma and has been fighting against the central government for greater autonomy since 1949, when it formed its military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army.

5 Responses to Thein Sein, Suu Kyi Meet KNU for First Time

  1. Peace with all ethnic groups should make within six months or a year is better. The more delay there can be more displaced peoples and also require to avoid violation of human rights and various kinds abuses.
    Kachin state peace is very much essential to establish as quick as possible. All displaced Kachins should return their own place also important. Both side fighting troops should return to their original place is a must. There should have more dialogues so that trust can create Tatmadaw and KIA.

  2. wow It seems like there’s good news coming out of Burma almost every day now. I’m sincerely happy for my people and very hopeful that peace and prosperity will be achieved in Burma very soon.

  3. If KNU seeks legal status, what about other 17 plus ethnic armed organizations’s role to remain legal status with holdind armed while the 2008 constitution clearly staged that Republic of Union Myanmar only allowed ‘Single Defence Force’ for the whole nation. There is no logic on this proposal for KNU to seeks legal status while other ethnic aremd leaders remain outside legal status / folds.

    If KNU registered for a party to contest elelction in 2015, the KNU has full rights to partidicpate. Likewise, other 17 plus ethnic armed oganizations have the same rights to do so.

    If President granted legal status to KNU today, how president can accomodate other ethnic armed groups for th same legal status?

    The KNU and other ethnic leaders must find the logic of legal or illegal argument prior to proposing a new peace process.

    if the 2008 constitution is unchanged with the quota of 25% representation from the Tadmadaw (Myanmar Defence Force) and allowed non-elected representation to the parliament, the KNU may win legal status without legal rights winthin the constitution. This is contradiction to the current position of the constiution.

    KNU, NMSP, KNPP and KIO leaders must find the logic of peace process for a real change of the constitution as a stage of interest for the whole nation.

    KNU and NMSP must also disucss about local issues on State and territory amended in 1974 constitution but cretaed conflicts among Mon and Karen villagers because 54 plus Mon villagers are allocated to the current Karen State.

    KNU and NMSP leaders must also discuss the possible of reachign common MOU on dealing with local issues such as religions and other language schooling system in both States.

    At the end both KNU and NMSP have little room to move if both organizations rejected the current constitution but seeks for legal status under the President’s power.

    If KNU do not register to the Electoral Commission, I am wondered how can President U Thein Sein grant legal status to Karen’s leading armed organisation like KNU.

    Legal rights will never override the Constitution in all nation. Therefore, chaning the constitution that meets the interest of the KNU or NMSP is first battle of politics for all.

    Pleace for all, but rights for all under the laws.

  4. KNU you are late a bit. Everything that you mentioned to be done has been already tried with KIO since 1994 ceasefire.

  5. If Pado Mahn Shar was still alive, the formation of KNU peace delegations and political stands would be different. UNFC or ENC would still stand commonly in peace talk. Even though individual ceasefire talk has been arranged, the ethnic political bargaining position would still be the same.

    What is going on with KNU leadership at this present time is that….! Some groups or individuals, who have strong personal business interest behind the scenes are providing cleaver advises for the sake of their own interest. Seem like present KNU leaders will let legal Karen political parties in Karen state to represent Karen people interest, while KNU leadership are looking into a big chunk of money with different projects.

    They are talking about getting legal status but in reality, they are no longer interested in getting this legal status as long as they share business opportunities with the regime. KNU leadership and individuals who just jumped into KNU’s trip to Yangoon in the last minutes will pay more attention to those business investments, even though they try to sound like they are for the whole Karen people in & outside Karen state. This campaign is just a show to military regime that KNU is strong politically for the purpose of getting business opportunities.

    The hidden agendas under the table are all about family $$$$$$ or personal interests. They think after half century of fighting, now is time to get rewarded….! It is fair for those who really engage in fighting to get rewarded but not for the last minutes jumpers into the game of benefit.

    Karen people need to know and learn more about this whole peace delegations formation and its purpose. Wake up Karen people …! Don’t be too stupid …! Pado Mahn Shar is still looking at you from the “HEAVEN”. Let maintain the true political pledge for the Karen people. Don’t support those cash hungers or hunters. Pado Mahn Shar will still be speaking to Karen public at all time.

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