KNU Peace Talks Focus on Code of Conduct

By Saw Yan Naing 3 September 2012

The Karen National Union (KNU) held its third official round of peace talks on Monday with Burmese government representatives in the Karen State capital Pa-an where they focused attention on a proposed “Code of Conduct” to be implemented following the signing of a ceasefire in January.

Nyo Ohn Myint, a source close to Naypyidaw’s delegation, told The Irrawaddy on Monday evening that the two sides agreed in principle to the Code of Conduct, which was initially proposed by the KNU.

He said the framework must now be authorized by President Thein Sein and the commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces, Vice-Senior-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

The proposed Code of Conduct lays out regulations that both Burmese army and KNU troops must respect. According to Saw David Takapaw, the vice-president of the KNU, the proposed framework could “help build the foundations of a concrete ceasefire.”

Among the points agreed in the Code of Conduct are that both government and Karen troops can travel or transport rations on routes that are agreed by both parties. Another crucial point is that the Burmese army can no longer order the construction of roads in KNU-controlled areas, according to David Takapaw.

Naypyidaw will also be obliged to ensure that the Burmese armed forces withdraw from areas close to IDP shelters.

Negotiations began at 9 a.m on Monday at the Zwegabin Hotel in Pa-an. Naypyidaw’s chief negotiator Aung Min was accompanied by presidential office representative Soe Thein, Immigration Minister Khin Yi, Karen State’s chief minister Zaw Min, four members of parliament and other representatives.

The KNU delegation was led by Naw Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the KNU. Although negotiations were scheduled to include various military matters, the KNU’s army chiefs Gen Mutu Say Poe and Maj. Tu Tu Lay were not present at the meeting.

Tu Tu Lay was instrumental in the resettlement of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Karen State.

Contacted by The Irrawaddy on Monday afternoon, KNU spokesperson Naw May Oo Mutraw declined to give any comment over the outcome of the peace talks.

Four domestic observers and three foreign observers who were invited by the KNU were also present at the meeting, according to Karen sources who also reported that a new KNU liaison office is to be opened in Pa-an in the near future.

Before leaving for the two-day talks in Pa-an on Saturday, the KNU released a statement saying that the third round of negotiations will focus on: a guarantee of safety for civilians; the relocation of Burmese government troops from Karen State and areas populated by Karen people; and the Code of Conduct.

In an interview with The Irrawaddy last week, Naw Zipporah Sein said that the KNU will call on the government to withdraw its troops in areas such as occupied villages and military camps close to IDP shelters.

“We don’t ask them to withdraw all of their troops immediately,” said Naw Zipporah Sein, adding that the withdrawal of all government troops may take time.

The security of civilians will only be guaranteed when the government withdraws its troops from villages abandoned by the IDPs, and the IDPs are in turn able to return home to live and work in safety, she said.

Another source who observed Mondays’ negotiations said that the safety of civilians and the relocation of government troops in Karen State are two of the main issues expected to be discussed on Tuesday.