We’re Only Half-Way There, KNU Says on Resistance Day

KNU Chairman Mutu Say Poe delivers a speech at a ceremony marking Karen Resistance Day on Jan. 31, 2013. (Photo: Pyi Daw Myint / The Irrawaddy)

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of Southeast Asia’s oldest insurgent groups, marked the 64th anniversary of its struggle for greater autonomy on Thursday with vows to continue fighting until its ultimate goal has been reached.

“We’re not there yet. We’re only at the middle of our journey,” KNU Vice-Chairperson Zipporah Sein told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

The remarks, coming a year after the KNU signed its first ceasefire agreement with Burma’s government since the founding of its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), on Jan. 31, 1949, show that despite the progress of peace talks over the past two years, the demands of Burma’s many ethnic minorities remain largely unmet.

Like the KNU, many groups in Burma say that their ultimate goal is greater autonomy for ethnic areas, not just a temporary cessation of hostilities. A lasting peace, they say, can only be achieved through negotiations leading to a political settlement—something the government has so far avoided.

“We have to implement the peace process step-by-step until we reach a political dialogue,” said Zipporah Sein, adding that a final political settlement is “very important for not only for the KNU but also for other ethnic groups than want to achieve a federal state.”

After resisting the government for more than six decades, the KNU signed a historic ceasefire deal on Jan. 12 of last year. However, observers say the truce could collapse at any time if the government continue to ignore demands for a binding agreement that recognizes key KNU demands.

Besides the lack of progress on political talks, there are also concerns about the continuing presence of Burmese troops near KNU territory, deterring thousands of displaced civilians from returning to their home villages for fear of another outbreak of fighting.

Even Gen Mutu Say Poe, the KNU’s new chairman and a prominent advocate of the peace agreement, acknowledged at a Karen Resistance Day ceremony on Thursday that many issues have yet to be addressed.

“We still have not reached the stage of a firm ceasefire. The code of conduct to be observed by the troops of both sides is still not in place,” he said, according to a KNU press release.

“As military conflict is a consequence of politics, an acceptable resolution of political problems is the main cause [of peace]. As we have not reached an acceptable resolution of the political problems, peace cannot yet be established,” he added.

He also said that dialogue and ceasefire do not mean surrender.

“[The ceasefire agreement] is not the denial of the aspirations of our people. It is a step for holding political dialogue and minimizing the ravages of war. The current ceasefire is an endeavor for reaching the stage of political dialogue. However, in the current situation, we are still within the context of revolutionary armed resistance,” said the KNU leader.

According to the KNU statement, cooperation with the other ethnic nationalities is vitally important in the effort to find an acceptable resolution of the main political problem that has caused civil war in Burma.

“The dialogue for a viable settlement of the political problem cannot be just between the KNU and the government in power. Together with the ethnic nationality organizations, all the organizations having stakes in the struggle must be able to participate in the dialogue,” read the statement.

Meanwhile, Karen civil society and religious organizations, including KNU representatives, concluded a two-day meeting on Tuesday in Pa-an, the capital of Karen State, where they discussed the implementation of the peace agreement and the resettlement of displaced refugees.

The meeting, attended by about 40 representatives from various Karen organizations, resulted in an agreement to form a peace-negotiating committee and organize a conference in March, according Saw Moe Myint, an executive committee member of the Rangoon-based Kayin People’s Party.

“We intend to invite 200 Karen leaders to the conference and we will discuss how to have a permanent peace, and how to set a policy for the future of ethnic Karen people, including economic development and the resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees,” said Saw Moe Myint.

“I hope this conference will help to speed up the peace process between the KNU and the government,” he added.


3 Responses to We’re Only Half-Way There, KNU Says on Resistance Day

  1. Not even half, still finding the road alignment. After it is found, it must be surveyed and designed then constructed, only after that you can walk through. You must unite among yourself and and then with the UNFC Members, You must use the UNFC Flag High in your ceremony. Without combined forces, you will be crushed to pieces and to dust.

  2. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “We still have not reached the stage of a firm ceasefire. The code of conduct to be observed by the troops of both sides is still not in place,” he said, according to a KNU press release.
    Of course the ‘code of conduct’ specifically is non-negotiable as the first step for that matter.
    And Min Aung Hlaing is DRAGGING HIS FEET as well.
    Do you why?
    He has not finished with the KIA, ABSDF and Arakan Army contingent in Kachin State yet.
    At the same time he is maneuvering his hordes in Karen State as well for that kind of an urgency (in Kachin State) in case KNU refused to toe his line in later days.
    Another way to put it he is keeping the ‘carrot’ dangling at the moment for the KNU I say.
    He also said that dialogue and ceasefire do not mean surrender.
    Of course, not yet at the moment.
    “The dialogue for a viable settlement of the political problem cannot be just between the KNU and the government in power. Together with the ethnic nationality organizations, all the organizations having stakes in the struggle must be able to participate in the dialogue,” read the statement.
    That’s RIGHT and CORRECT as well.
    It is hard to ‘break’ a ‘BUNDLE’ of course.
    And Min Aung Hlaing would not ‘HEAR’ much less “ACCEPT” the idea of the UNFC – ethnic coalition – representing itself as an ENTITY in further talks for that matter (cease fire, political settlement and eventual peace).
    Mutu Say Poe would be in QUANDARY and in his DREAMS for PEACE and FEDERALISM as well given the PICTURE and POSITION of his KNU and other ethnic groups yelling for EQUALITY, RIGHTS and FEDERALISM as well.
    The Chinese chosen commander-in-chief of the Burma Army (practically a mercery force protecting Chinese interests in Kachin State while killing own brethren the Kachins and Burmese as well today) is employing that ARCHAIC PLOY – divide and conquer/rule) – of the British colonialists of yore to suit his purpose today.
    He has his own AGENDA – hold the ethnic revolution at bay at all/any cost – as ordered by his boss – Than Shwe – to highlight the ROLE of the BURMA ARMY in the POLITICAL PICTURE of the country as MOST SUPREME and NON-NEGOTIABLE as well.
    And Thein Sein will CONTINUE HIS RULE beyond 2015 in the SAME MANNER without HOLDING the 2015 ELECTIONS that would THRUST Daw Suu into POWER as PRESIDENT of BURMA and CULMINATE in CORALLING the lot at Naypyidaw and SENDING THEM to the International Criminal Court at The Hague to answer for CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY/WAR CRIMES of course. Remember Daw Suu’s lethal weapon ” RULE of LAW”?.
    And PEACE in BURMA specifically ‘ethnic peace’ would be the HARBINGER of DOOM for Than Shwe led mob at Naypydaw as well trust me.
    Hence, Min Aung Hlaing would play his part – BAD GUY/VILLAIN – and KEEP the COUNTRY on ITS TOES and the communists in Beijing would SCALP BURMA to the BONE while Obama led West HESITATES to INVEST much less GET INVOLVED in Burma’s WOES of course, citing UNREST/INSTABILITY in the country for that matter and rightly as well.
    To SUM IT UP: DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM and HUMAN RIGHTS much less RULE of LAW WOULD NOT COME OUT OF Than Shwe’s CLERK (Thein Sein’s) PARLIAMENT folks!

  3. Lets see. I do not think we the ethnics will ever receive democracy. Democracy seems only for those superior Burmans. If Thein Sein and our superior minded brothers and sisters Burmans really want to re-institute Democracy, they will not need to wage wars or to wait years and years. They know exactly what we want and what is democracy. Kachins want genuine democracy, but they are given bullets and death. Why is Thein Sein wasting too long to have political dialogue? I do not think the real democracy will be granted even when they have political dialogue. They drag their feet too slow or they are not moving at all political reform. Nargis constitution seems too god for them. It means, they drafted it to rule the nation forever by these same people with apartheid. So, Karens may better not calculate so wrong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Comments with external links in the body text will be deleted by moderators.