KNU Leadership Gathers to Firm Up Position on Peace Process

By Nyein Nyein 6 November 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand—The Karen National Union (KNU) convened an emergency meeting of its Central Standing Committee to review the state of the peace process at its headquarters in Lay Wah in Karen State’s Paan district on Tuesday.

The KNU leadership will consult with members to find ways to overcome deadlocks in negotiations with the government on the implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The ethnic armed organization (EAO) temporarily suspended its participation in all peace negotiations late last month.

It said it would hold internal discussions to reach a “consensus” on its implementation mechanisms, framework and decision-making process regarding the peace process.

KNU leaders attended a high-level summit between EAO, government and military leaders in mid-October in Naypyitaw held to commemorate the third anniversary of the NCA signing. They decided that the group should hold internal discussions before proceeding with further peace talks, however.

In a brief press advisory posted on a KNU social media page on Tuesday, senior leaders said the Nov. 6-10 Central Standing Committee meeting will focus on finding ways to overcome the deadlocks, as well as ways to improve trust building. It added that the negotiating parties needed to find a means to bridge the gap of understanding between the EAOs and the government over setting basic principles for the establishment of a democratic federal union.

The majority of the 55 Central Standing Committee members are attending this week’s discussions, together with the KNU’s top military officers led by commander-in-chief General Saw Johnny and his deputy, Lieutenant-General Baw Kyaw Heh.

According to KNU sources, Tuesday’s discussion went well.

Naw Zipporah Sein, a former vice chairwoman of the KNU, said the meeting was important, as it would review the peace process and path to implementation of the NCA.

Though she is not currently a member of the committee, Naw Zipporah Sein said the leaders were working to find “ways to build a federal union through political dialogue.”

She said many KNU members were concerned that the NCA had drifted from its original purpose, as Myanmar’s military (or Tatmadaw) was increasingly asserting that the route to ending armed conflict was via disarmament, and not through meaningful political dialogue.

“Our concern is whether the parties, especially the Tatmadaw, to the peace process are willing to achieve peace,” she told The Irrawaddy.

Observers of the peace process follow the KNU leadership’s views closely, as the group has been a key player in moving the process forward.

The KNU’s decision to momentarily suspend participation in peace negotiations has resulted in a postponement of the EAOs’ peace discussions.