CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Karen National Union (KNU) leaders have urged the government to consider the administration of areas controlled by the ethnic armed group as outlined in the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) signed two years ago.
KNU-controlled territory is comprised of seven districts in the Kawthoolei territory, including in Karen State, parts of Mon state, and parts of Bago, Irrawaddy and Tanintharyi regions—each with their own administrative mechanisms which often overlap with the central government.
Since bilateral ceasefires were signed in 2012, KNU-controlled areas have seen less conflict but still face administrative problems which should be addressed in accordance with the NCA’s “interim program” for controlled regions KNU spokesman and general secretary Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
“The implementation of the interim program is a challenge for us, because it is not yet being implemented despite the fact it is in the NCA text,” explained Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo.
He said the KNU’s 14 administrative departments—including education, healthcare, and social welfare—were conflicting with the central government’s administration in some areas.
“While our administration departments are working, there has been complaints to the joint ceasefire monitoring committee accusing us of violating the NCA. Because of that, we need solutions through the interim management,” the general secretary said.
The NCA’s interim program included information on how to collaborate with the government on administrative affairs and environmental protection, he said.
Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo said the interim management of these areas was one of the two key issues discussed during an urgent four-day meeting of the KNU’s Central Standing Committee held in Lay Wah last week.
The meeting was the first urgent gathering of standing committee members since the KNU’s 16th Congress in March. Another key issue discussed was reviewing the peace process and how to proceed.
KNU leaders also discussed developmental projects and national parks and forest reserves in their territories.
A statement released on Oct. 7 said Karen leaders decided to delay allowing investment in development projects which may impact local communities and the environment as there are currently no specific laws and regulations in place to protect from effects of such project.
One of the challenges the group is now facing is the case of environmental preservation, said Mahn Ba Tun, head of the KNU’s forestry department.
He explained that neither the KNU nor local residents were informed of central government efforts to extend the forest reserves and the national parks along the border with Thailand and Tanintharyi Region in 2015.
The central government in Naypyitaw has also allowed international non-governmental organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature Myanmar (WWF) and Fauna and Flora International (FFI) to study the areas without the consent of KNU, said KNU leaders.
In November last year the KNU signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Wide Fund for Nature Myanmar (WWF) to protect the forest in KNU-controlled territories.
“Government efforts to set national parks and forest reserves in KNU Brigade No.4 area [in the Myeik-Dawei area of Tanintharyi Region] has caused obstacles for the current peace building process,” the KNU statement released last week said, “we will protect our forests based on our policies.”
“We have been protecting our forests and our wild animals and we will uphold our forest policy and regulations on further forests preservation and protection,” Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo told The Irrawaddy, adding that they had begun awareness programs with locals to protect wildlife and timber forest reserves.