What Did KNU Leaders Gain by Going to Naypyidaw?

President Thein Sein meets the new Karen National Union Chairman Mutu Say Poe in Naypyidaw on Jan. 4. (Photo: The President’s Office website)

President Thein Sein meets the new Karen National Union Chairman Mutu Say Poe in Naypyidaw on Jan. 4. (Photo: The President’s Office website)

The visit to Naypyidaw by Karen National Union (KNU) leaders earlier this month was a PR coup for the government, but did little or nothing to promote the tenuous peace process that both sides say they want to advance.

Instead of talking about substantive issues, the KNU delegation and their hosts—President Thein Sein and Burmese Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing—spoke only vaguely about their shared desire to move the peace process forward.

That suited the Burmese government and army just fine—all they hoped to get out of the visit was a chance to portray themselves as peacemakers, and therefore not the ones responsible for the steadily escalating conflict in Kachin State.

It’s less clear what the KNU leaders who went to Naypyidaw, including newly elected Chairman Mutu Say Poe, hoped to gain from the visit. Some sources say, however, that they appeared to be more interested in making business deals than in taking peace negotiations to the next level.

One key issue that didn’t make it onto the agenda of this visit was the ceasefire “code of conduct” proposed by the former KNU leadership last September. According to Mahn Nyein Maung, a KNU central committee member who joined the delegation to Naypyidaw, the new KNU leaders did not raise this issue with either the president or the commander-in-chief because it was an “informal” visit made at the invitation of the president.

The code of conduct, consisting of 11 chapters and 34 detailed points, deals with such matters as the repositioning of government front-line troops in KNU territories and the security of civilians. Under an agreement reached in September, the code needs to be submitted to Thein Sein for review and approval, and then finalized by the KNU and government peace delegation in the next round of negotiations. It is considered a cornerstone of the entire peace process.

So far, however, no progress has been made at all in establishing the code of conduct, which must also be reviewed by Min Aung Hlaing.

A well-informed KNU military leader said that the failure to raise this issue during the trip to Naypyidaw reflects the new leadership’s desire to carry out the ceasefire and peace negotiations swiftly and boldly, in contrast to the more cautious approach taken by the former leaders, who were accused by some of not wanting peace.

This perception led some more neutral members of the central committee to cast their votes for the “pro-peace” candidates during the last KNU congress, held late last year. It remains to be seen, however, if the change in leadership will bring the desired results, since so far very little real progress has been made a full year after peace talks with the government began.

Meanwhile, in other ethnic areas, the situation looks even more uncertain. Fighting continues not only in Kachin State, where war has raged on for the past year and a half with no end in sight, but also in Shan State, where intermittent clashes continue to be reported despite a ceasefire between the government army and Shan rebels.

The current ceasefire in Karen State will also begin to look increasingly uncertain if concrete steps are not taken soon to set the stage for a comprehensive political dialogue. “The ceasefire is only a preliminary step to prepare for political negotiations,” said Brig-Gen Saw Hsar Gay, who is also a member of the KNU central committee.

“We have a lot of pending issues to discuss with the Burmese government, such as the code of conduct, partial troop withdrawal, investment projects and the construction of roads and infrastructure,” he said. “Unless they [the government] begin to address these issues, we will continue to see them as a threat.”


6 Responses to What Did KNU Leaders Gain by Going to Naypyidaw?

  1. the damage has been done. long-standing peace and trust seems impossible. majority of people do not forgive and forget, no matter what their religion is. the karen genocide should be investigated and ALL responsibles must be charged.

  2. The generals one, the KNU nil. The show must go on.

  3. Bama military thugs’ interest is how to make profit from selling the Karen land and resources to foreigners before all political dialogue ( autonomy and Karen rights). It is the trick and trap for greedy and unwise Karen.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “That suited the Burmese government and army just fine—all they hoped to get out of the visit was a chance to portray themselves as peacemakers, and therefore not the ones responsible for the steadily escalating conflict in Kachin State”.
    Another way to put it and simply as well: Mutu Say Poe and his bunch have been DUPED by Thein Sein led mob at Naypyidaw to say the least of course.
    Since day one the bunch at the Naypyidaw has NO DESIRE much less COMMITMENT for PEACE in Burma trust me.
    And Daw Suu’s “RULE of LAW” as well WOULD MAKE NO HEADWAY in that direction (peace in the country via rule of law as she has envisaged much less WORK as well) in Burma as long as Than Shwe’s SIDEKICK, CHINA CHOSEN C-in-C of the BURMA ARMY is HOLDING the HELM of the country via the 2008 Nargis constitution where the National Defense and Security Council is EMBEDDED ENSHRINING and GUARANTEEING the ROLE of Min Aung Hlaing’s BURMA ARMY, practically a MERCENARY FORCE of CHINA going after the KIA, ABSDF and Arakan Army forming an alliance and defending LAIZA and Kachin State today, in the POLITICAL PICTURE and POSTERITY(future) of the country like today.
    Of course It is APPARENT and MOST OBVIOUSLY as well is the fact: BURMA IS being RUN UNDER THE “TRIAD” RULE of Daw Suu, Min Aung Hlaing and Thein Sein today folks.
    And Daw Suu’s ROLE as far as Than Shwe/Thein Sein is concerned is NO MORE than A TRIAGE NURSE in a hospital – dealing with emergencies/urgencies only in the country – while DEPRIVING HER of the PRIMARY JOB/ROLE – leader of the opposition and call for amending/abolishing of the military drawn/dominated 2008 Nargis constitution in the first place and as AVOWED since day one as obviously today.
    The fact that there was NO TALK of SUBSTANTIAL POINTS – The code of conduct, consisting of 11 chapters and 34 detailed points, dealing with such matters as the repositioning of government front-line troops in KNU territories and the security of civilians amongst others – while Mutu Say Poe was in Naypyidaw EVIDENCED the FACT Thein Sein’s outfit at Naypyidaw is NOT SINCERE nor HONEST in garnering PEACE in Karen State as well apart from EXPLOITING the VISIT of the Karen peace delegation as a PHOTO-OPT and ENHANCE their PROPAGANDA MACHINE (STUNT) – bidding for peace in Burma – among the international community not to mention in the country as well.
    Hence SIMPLY SAID: Mutu Say Poe and his Karens were DUPED and MADE SUCKERS out of the matter no less.

  5. Wearing Karen’s traditional dress/costume makes Thein Sein so ugly. Killing thousands of Karen people cannot be healed by a few minutes wearing Karen’s costume. The Karen leaders also need to behave like real leaders. Here, they look like clowns. If they need shoes, jackets, Pants, shirts and ties, I will take care of them. I see nothing positive but clowns with Karen’s traditional costumes.

  6. In the middle of a full scale war in the Kachin State, the President succeeded in using the KNU to pimp his own, and Tatmadaws image, as peace seeking people! – When, will the KNU and other ethnic groups ever learn?

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