Burma

Burma Army, Karen Rebels Visit Colombia

By Saw Yan Naing 4 December 2015

A joint delegation representing the Burma Army, ethnic Karen rebels and the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center arrived in Colombia this week to study the country’s peace process.

The delegation from Burma included senior Burmese military officials Lt-Gen Ye Aung and Maj-Gen Tun Tun Naug; Tu Tu Lay, an advisor for the Karen National Union (KNU); Maj. Paw Doh of the KNU; and Maj-Gen Saw Moses, second-in-command of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA).

At least one representative of the KNU/KNLA Peace Council, a breakaway faction of the Karen minority’s dominant rebel group, as well as members of the MPC also joined the study mission, according to MPC official Hla Maung Shwe.

“It was the first time that Burma Army officials and armed ethnic groups have joined a delegation together. They will study the peace process and conflict resolution in Colombia,” Hla Maung Shwe said.

Asked why Burma’s other non-state armed groups were not represented in the delegation, the MPC official said the Karen groups had a closer relationship with the government and have made considerable progress on trust-building through regular bilateral conferences.

“Other ethnic rebels will have the chance to participate when the trust is stronger,” Hla Maung Shwe said.

The Burmese government achieved a landmark peace accord with eight non-state armed groups on Oct. 15, but fell short of its goal of securing a nationwide pact. Seven groups involved in the negotiations did not sign the agreement, some out of solidarity with armed groups that the government did not include.

Signatories to the pact included ethnic Arakan, Chin, southern Shan  and Pa-O rebel groups, as well as the Burman opposition All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF). Only those representing Karen rebel groups were included in this week’s delegation to Colombia.

The South American nation is undergoing a hard-fought resolution to internal conflict that has been ongoing since the mid-twentieth century. The Colombian peace process has been described by some as a new model for conflict resolution.

The Colombian government began holding peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2012 in the Cuban capital of Havana. The two sides are near to reaching an agreement, which is expected to be penned by a March 2016 deadline. The agreement stipulates that the FARC must disarm within 60 days of signing the final document.

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