Karen National Union Slammed Over Claims it Acknowledged Junta Ceasefire Anniversary Event

By The Irrawaddy 28 October 2021

Myanmar’s military regime held an event in Naypyitaw this month to mark the sixth anniversary of the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) which was attended by most of the signatories. 

General Saw Mutu Say Poe, the chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU), which is a signatory to the NCA, sent a message to the event, according to other ethnic armed organizations. 

Only the Chin National Front and KNU reportedly boycotted the event. The Restoration Council of Shan State, New Mon State Party, All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army – Peace Council, Lahu Democratic Union, Arakan Liberation Party and Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) all attended the October 15 event. 

After receiving criticism, the armed groups said the KNU, the most powerful signatory, sent a message.  

The KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, is Myanmar’s oldest ethnic armed group and started fighting for federal powers in 1948. 

It is supporting the civilian resistance against the regime and provided military training for volunteers. It has attacked regime bases near the Thai border in response to the junta’s deadly crackdowns on protesters. The KNU has urged the regime to step down. 

PNLO patron Colonel Khun Okkar, who attended the event, told The Irrawaddy: “General Mutu sent a message online. He said he has a hearing impairment and could not read the message himself. General Min Naung [of Myanmar’s military] read his message. So it is not true that the KNU did not attend the meeting. It attended virtually.” 

When the NCA was signed on October 15, 2015, Mutu Say Poe signed as the KNU chairman and also the leader of the eight armed organizations, according to Col Khun Okkar. 

“Eight groups signed the agreement. Each group has its leaders so we asked General Mutu to represent us as the head of all eight groups. Though the KNU alone [out of NCA signatories] has been critical [of the regime], General Mutu had to say something as he signed the pact as the leader of the eight groups. So he sent a message in honor of the pact,” said Col Khun Okkar. 

Another source from the event confirmed the KNU message. 

But a KNU officer, who is close to Gen. Saw Mutu Say Poe, told The Irrawaddy that there had been a misunderstanding.

“He extended greetings as the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] phoned him. It is possible that they noted down what he said and read it to participants. He said it has been six years since [the NCA] and both sides need to maintain it and make sure it does not fail. That’s all he said,” the KNU officer told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.  

In an Oct. 15 statement, the KNU said, “Myanmar is on the verge of collapse.”

The armed group urged Myanmar’s military to salvage its reputation by quitting politics and making a public pledge to support the establishment of a federal democracy. 

Some armed groups are helping the civilian resistance with training and shelter while others have worked with the junta.

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