The Burmese government is avoiding real political dialogue despite claiming that it wants to build peace with ethnic armed groups, claims the Karen National Union (KNU).
KNU Chairman Tamla Baw released a statement to commemorate Karen martyrs’ day on Aug. 12 which highlighted the fragile nature of the current ceasefire that was first signed in January.
“Though the government claims to be building peace with armed ethnic nationality forces, it is my analysis that, in practice, it is working with an emphasis only on business matters, rather than dialogue for peace with a political essence,” he said.
“There is no doubt that the peace our Karen people want and the peace [the government] wants to give our people are not currently aligned.”
David Takapaw, the vice-chairman of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese government cannot be attacking Kachin rebels on one side while simultaneously making peace with other ethnic armed groups.
He said that the Karen people faced a similar situation to the Kachin in the past when the government made peace with the other groups while still waging war against the KNU—part of a long-term strategy to eliminate ethnic armies one-by-one.
Political issues have always been the cause of ethnic conflicts in Burma, said Tamla Baw, adding that fighting will only cease after real political dialogue. He added that the Karen people’s revolutionary resistance has lasted for 63 years but still remains a “national liberation movement” as its goals have not yet been reached.
“We have learned bitter lessons a number of times in our national liberation movement because of the sowing of division and discord,” said Tamla Baw.
The KNU vowed to continue the four principle of group founder Saw Ba U Gyi—surrender is out of the question; the recognition of Karen State must be completed; we shall retain our arms; we shall decide our own political destiny.
Tamla Baw said that as the current government gained power in the 2010 general election, which was based on the widely-condemned 2008 Constitution, there was still a need for further political reform. He said that many of the recent changes were simply to appease the international community.
The KNU signed a peace agreement with government negotiators on Jan. 12—the first in a 63-year struggle against the Burmese regime. The adversaries are due to hold a third round of peace talks in the Karen State capital Pa-an on Aug. 27-29.
“We will not have political talks at this meeting. We will just talk about a code of conduct to regulate their troops,” said David Takapaw. “They should stop activities, especially rights abuses. If they violate the code of conduct, we will withdraw our ceasefire agreement.”