KNU and 88 Generation to Collaborate on Burma Charter Reform, Peace Efforts

By Yen Saning & Nang Seng Nom 9 May 2014

RANGOON — The 88 Generation former students’ group and the Karen National Union (KNU) have agreed to cooperate in pushing for reform of Burma’s 2008 Constitution, while also working toward an end to civil conflict in the country, a leader of the rebel group said.

Zipporah Sein, the KNU’s vice chairwoman, led a delegation from the group—the political wing of the Karen National Liberation Army—that met with the former students, now known as 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, in Rangoon on Wednesday.

“The Constitution plays an important role in the whole country’s reformation. It is a fact that we have to cooperate. As the Constitution is not a law that we want, it should be amended.” Zipporah Sein said.

She said 88 Generation leaders and the KNU would also work together, along with civil society organizations (CSO), to make sure efforts to secure peace in Burma are successful.

88 Generation leaders have also agreed to collaborate with the opposition National League for Democracy, and a series of rallies is being held around the country as part of a joint campaign to remove the armed forces’ effective veto over constitutional amendments.

Leader of the former students’ group Min Ko Naing said reforming the military-drafted Constitution and the peace process were the two most important issues in Burma.

“The main crisis happening in our country is the constitutional crisis and the peace issue. All agree that the Constitution needs to be reformed. We all agree that the peace issues, country development issues and democracy issues cannot be worked out with the 2008 Constitution,” he said.

Susanna Hla Hla Soe, director of the Karen Women’s Action Group, said that Zipporah Sein spoke with members of the Karen community in Rangoon about the ongoing talks toward a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

“In her meeting with the Karen community, she explained about the current peace process to the Karen public. The community responded that they want an authentic and genuine ceasefire agreement. They pointed out what is happening in Kachin right now after 17 years of ceasefire,” she said. The Kachin Independence Army’s ceasefire with Burma Army broke down in 2011, and clashes have occurred in Kachin State and northern Shan State in recent weeks.

“Some also reminded [Zipporah Sein] that the KNU should not get involved in business activities because they might not be able to concentrate on politics. And they want unity between Karen armies,” she added.

After departing from KNU territory on the Thai-Burma border on April 30, Zipporah Sein met with Karen communities in Hpa-an, the capital of Karen State. In Rangoon and Pathein, Irrawaddy Division, she also met with local Karen to discuss unity among the ethnic group, to prepare for a conference in 2015 that will include Karen political parties, armed groups and community-based organizations.

During her current trip, Zipporah Sein will also meet with the Karen community in Pegu Division’s Kyauk Gyi town after May 10. She has met with President’s Office Minister Aung Min, the government’s chief peace negotiator, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party leader Khun Htun Oo and plans to meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.