Informal Weekend Peace Talks Held between Govt, KNU

By Saw Yan Naing 17 June 2013

Two separate delegations from the Karen National Union (KNU) have met with Burmese officials including Aung Min, a senior minister and key peace negotiator from the President’s Office, to informally discuss establishing a “code of conduct” with the ethnic Karen rebels and tentative plans for a “nationwide political dialogue.”

Both of the KNU delegations—a technical team led by Saw Tar Do Moo and a high-level group led by KNU chairman Gen Mutu Say Poe—met over the weekend with Aung Min and members of the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC).

Hla Maung Shwe, a leading member of the MPC, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that Saw Tar Do Moo’s delegation held talks with Burmese military officials including Lt-Gen Thet Naing Win, the minister of border affairs, to discuss a code of conduct for the ceasefire agreement reached by the two sides last year.

“There were talks for two days regarding the code of conduct. Respective military leaders including Lt-Gen Thet Naing Win also attended the meeting,” Hla Maung Shwe said.

The MPC leader said the meeting was positive, but refused to elaborate on details of the military affairs talks between the KNU technical team and Burmese military officials, as he was not authorized to comment on the matter.

Hla Maung Shwe added that the high-level KNU delegation, led by Mutu Say Poe, also held talks with Aung Min, but the two sides released no official statement on the meeting because it was an informal discussion.

KNU joint secretary Mahn Mahn confirmed that the KNU delegations discussed a code of conduct, but reached no binding agreement with the government and were not authorized to do so, given the informal nature of the meeting.

However, Hla Maung Shwe said that what Aung Min told the KNU delegations was in line with a plan that President Thein Sein laid out in discussions with Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, the head of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), during their meeting in Naypyidaw last week.

Thein Sein told Yawd Serk of the Shan rebel group that the government was trying to achieve ceasefire agreements with all of Burma’s ethnic groups. Soon after, the government hopes that a “framework” and “timeframe” for a nationwide political dialogue can be established, according to Hla Maung Shwe. That would include a government invitation to all ethnic groups to attend a dialogue in Burma.

However, before that can occur, the government aims to achieve comprehensive ceasefire agreements with all ethnic armed groups, notably the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its militant wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The government’s 17-year ceasefire agreement with the KIO-KIA broke down in 2011.

On Saturday evening, there was also a dinner attended by leaders from the KNU and RCSS, as well as Rangoon-based Shan political parties and members of the MPC. Government officials including Aung Min and Minister Soe Thane, also from the President’s Office, were also present at the dinner.

The KNU delegations left separately for Rangoon on Friday. Other KNU leaders such as Tamla Thaw, Roger Khin, Shwe Maung and Tu Tu Lay also attended the meetings.

The two KNU delegations on Monday returned to Thailand, where they are based.

Ahead of their trip, the KNU released a statement saying its technical team planned to discuss establishing a code of conduct concerning the ceasefire with a Burmese technical team. The KNU signed a ceasefire agreement with the government on Jan. 12, 2012.