Hundreds of Karen community leaders met with top government officials in Pa-an, Karen State, on Friday to discuss unity among the various political, armed, religious and community organizations.
The meeting follows a call by the Karen National Union earlier in March to unite the disparate armed groups in the state.
At the meeting in Pa-an, about 400 Karen representatives attended the meeting organized by the Karen Affairs Committee, a Rangoon-based group led by influential pastor Dr Simon Tha.
President’s Office Minister and chief government peace negotiator Aung Min also attended the meeting, along with Zaw Min, the chief minister of Karen State, and other officials and representatives of the Myanmar Peace Center.
The Karen groups expressed their desire for unity and the success of the peace process.
Aung Min and Zaw Min said they attended the meeting to show the government’s commitment to peace in Karen State, where armed groups have fought a war for autonomy since 1949 against the Burmese government.
Mahn Nyein Maung, a leading member of the Karen National Union Central Committee, said the Karen do not want to separate from Burma.
Naw Hsar Mu Tu, a Karen observer at the meeting from the National League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy in a phone interview on Friday that the Karen groups said they want a chance to unite.
“They said we Karen are not united. We need to rebuild unity among ourselves,” Hsar Mu Tu said.
The Border Guard Force in Karen State, a militia under Burmese government control, has said increased development will bring unity among the groups at the meeting.
The Karen Baptist Convention, a Rangoon-based religious organization, proposed an organization be established that could be a contact point for all Karen groups, adding that a committee should be set up to study amending the 2008 Constitution.
With additional reporting by Pyi Daw Myint in Pa-an.