Burma

KNU Meets Govt in Pa-an Before Rangoon Talks

By Lawi Weng 3 April 2012

Resettling Karen villagers who have fled ethnic violence to hide in jungle camps by the Thai-Burmese border will be discussed at peace talks on Wednesday.

Clashes between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the military wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), and government troops will also be the subject of ceasefire negotiations in the Karen State capital Pa-an, according to local sources.

The KNU delegation will then continue traveling to meet representatives from the Union Government in Rangoon on Friday.

“There are villagers who are still hiding from fighting in the jungle. Our group will discuss this matter at the meeting in order to protect their rights,” said David Takapaw, the vice-chairman of the KNU.

“We are also going to discuss government military bases being withdrawn from near Karen villagers,” he added. “There are many human rights violations as the army is based close to where our people live.”

Around half-a-dozen KNU representatives, led by General-Secretary Zipporah Sein, will meet Naypyidaw’s chief peace negotiator Railways Minister Aung Min and the government of Karen State in Pa-an before traveling to the former capital.

The KNU signed a preliminary ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government on Jan. 12, but no subsequent settlement has since been set for a lasting peace.

“We only have a primary agreement to end fighting from our last talks,” said David Takapaw. “We have not yet settled any concrete agreement in order to have a permanent and stable ceasefire. We are going there to have further talks about this matter.”

The KNU was founded in 1947 and has been fighting the Burmese government for greater autonomy for more than six decades, making it the nation’s longest running ethnic militia. Fighting between the KNLA and government troops has forced thousands of Karen people, including many women and children, to become internally displaced.

“They invade our territory and attack us saying they are the government,” added David Takapaw. “But they are extremists who are invaders and oppressed our race and religion. They need to stop this if they wanted to have democracy.”

The KNU congratulated the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, for its momentous victory in Sunday’s parliamentary by-elections.

“The NLD performed with courage in the election,” said David Takapaw. “The people voted for the NLD to show how much they love democracy and do not want to continue under this system of oppression.”

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