Ethnic Armed Group Claims Govt Offered Timber Deal to Sign NCA

By Lawi Weng 25 September 2018

Mon State — A leader of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) says the government will let it transport 5,000 tons of logged timber currently stuck in the jungle on one condition — that the ethnic armed group sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

But Khu Daniel, a member of the KNPP’s central committee, said the group has rejected the offer.

The KNPP asked the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) to transport the logs last year.

“We sent a letter asking them for permission. They replied that they could not allow it,” Khu Daniel said. “But some members of the NRPC, included senior member U Aung Soe, kept trying to convince us to sign the NCA first and then they would allow it.

“They even told us whenever we met that after signing the NCA it would not be difficult to get permission,” he added.

According to Khu Daniel, the KNPP told the government it did not want to mix business with politics.

The KNPP received permission to harvest the logs in 2013 and 2014, after signing a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the quasi-civilian government of the time under U Thein Sein. But it claims that the current government has not allowed the group to move them.

U Aung Soe denied that he or the rest of the NRPC offered the KNPP a guaranteed quid pro quo. However, he said that when the NRPC met with the group in May it did say that if it signed the NCA it could enter separate negotiations with the government for a deal to move the logs, and that permission was possible.

“When we have peace negotiations, we have to deal with what we can give,” said U Aung Soe.

The government has struck logging deals with armed groups it has signed peace deals with in the past, a practice some rights groups blame for much of Myanmar’s deforestation.

The government recently gave the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF) permission to log 5,000 tons of timber in Karenni State.

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency criticized the deal, calling it a “shadow agreement.” it said the deal undermined the government’s policy of improving forest governance in a country already suffering one of the highest rates of forest loss in the world.

At a press conference on Friday in Naypyitaw, President’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay said the government’s agreement with the KNPLF would be its last logging deal with an armed group.