The Irrawaddy

Karen National Union Recommits to Peace Process at Meeting

Mon State — The Karen Nation Union (KNU) has decided to continue working toward a peace deal with the government after a three-week meeting to review the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which it signed along with several other of the country’s ethnic armed groups in 2015.

Of the 55 members of the KNU’s central executive committee, 46 attended the meeting in Karen State from Aug. 6 to 24.

Committee member Padoh Saw Th’mein Tun told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the KNU decided to continue striving for a lasting peace with the government.

“Time will make a decision for the KNU. As long as the NCA exists, the KNU will continue to work on it,” he said.

Padoh Saw Th’mein Tun said the KNU would engage with the government, as it has been doing, primarily through the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee and the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee.

The KNU, he added, would also encourage other ethnic armed groups — especially the seven members of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee — to sign the NCA, which it considers the best way for ethnic minorities to work toward their political ambitions.

“We do not yet know what our efforts will achieve. When we reach the final chapters, we would know,” Padoh Saw Th’mein Tun said.

He noted, however, that the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), would continue to defend the territory it currently holds and resist any attempt by the military to take it.

The KNLA fought with the military earlier this year when the military attempted to rehabilitate a road on land the KNLA claims without securing approval in advance. The military stopped working on the road after a meeting between KNU Chairman Padoh Saw Mutu Sae Poe and Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in May, but it has not withdrawn its troops from the area.

After its three-week meeting this month, the KNU also released a statement announcing that it would be holding a public forum to gather feedback on the peace process from ethnic Karen, though it did not say where or when.

Before signed the NCA, the KNU struck a ceasefire deal with the government in 2012, after international aid groups started cutting off support to camps for people displaced by Myanmar’s civil war along the country’s border with Thailand.

The KNU said displaced people still sheltering along the border should not be pressured to return to their communities until they feel ready to do so safely and that it would be asking aid agencies to resume supporting them.