YANGON — The Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, cancelled a meeting it had scheduled with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) because the commander of one of the ethnic armed group’s brigades would not be attending, according to a member of the group’s political wing.
“The reason they gave us is that it was not suitable to have the meeting without the KNLA Brigade 5 commander. They said he has the most authority in the region,” said Padoh Saw Thamain Tun, a central executive committee member of the Karen National Union (KNU).
“As for us, our representatives went on the trip to have the meeting with them,” he said.
The goal of the meeting, scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Kyauk Kyi Township, was to settle a territorial dispute that erupted earlier this month when the Tatmadaw moved into an area claimed by Brigade 5 to rebuild an old road.
Some 2,000 ethnic Karen have fled the fighting.
Padoh Saw Thamain Tun said the KNU asked the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) to mediate the meeting and that the KNU and KNLA had decided beforehand who to send. He said they decided not to send the Brigade 5 commander because he was not fluent in Burmese and chose to send a subordinate instead.
“Saying they would not attend the meeting because the KNLA Brigade 5 commander would not be there is not a good reason. The KNU and KNLA decided who had to attend the meeting. In fact there would have been no problem without having him there,” Padoh Saw Thamain Tun said.
The KNU has asked the Tatmadaw to withdraw its soldiers from the disputed area and help the displaced families move back. Karen community leaders have also written to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for help.