Burma

KNU Says Meetings With Myanmar State Counselor, Army Chief Positive for Peace Process

By Nyein Nyein 29 October 2019

The Karen National Union (KNU) said after meetings with the State Counselor and the Army chief in the capital this week that the discussions would help move the peace process forward.

Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe and other KNU leaders’ meetings with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, held on Monday and Tuesday respectively, are viewed as crucial to the group’s eventual decision on whether to take part in the Joint-Ceasefire Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM), considered a key first step in getting the formal peace process back on track.

KNU Joint Secretary 2 Padoh Saw Hla Tun told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the group’s meetings with both the State Counselor and the army chief would help the formal peace process move forward, as these key decision makers can issue instructions to the respective stakeholders to ensure a strong ceasefire. The meetings would also build trust, he said.

Padoh Saw Hla Tun said the KNU agreed in the meetings that the JICM needed to convene soon, and the two sides would communicate further about this next month.

He added that during their meeting with the army chief, KNU leaders had “openly and warmly discussed ceasefire-related issues including joint-ceasefire monitoring and ways to avoid further engagement of ground forces. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing delegated responsibility for negotiating details of military issues to Lieutenant General Yar Pyae [the head of the Union-level Joint Monitoring Committee as well as the military’s Negotiation Team], so we will continue the negotiations related to military issues with him.”

On Tuesday, after Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe met in Naypyitaw, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief said, “Peace issues were discussed.”

At the pair’s previous meeting — which they referred to at the time as informal and personal — in May in Yangon, the KNU and Myanmar military leaders tried to build trust through personal talks. Since then, informal discussions have gotten back on track.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi greets Karen National Union Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe on Oct. 28, 2019. / Myanmar State Counselor’s Office

A day earlier, the KNU chairman met with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also the chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, after attending a commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in Naypyitaw. For the previous three years, the anniversary was marked every Oct. 15 — the date on which eight ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), including the KNU, signed the NCA with the government and the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) in 2015. This year the anniversary commemoration was delayed until Oct. 28.

During the meeting, according to a statement released by the State Counselor’s Office, she and the KNU leaders “exchanged views on the ways to overcome challenges in the peace making process, making agreements on the frameworks for implementing the NCA, plans for the peace process beyond the 2020 elections, holding a Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM), the absence of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) from the fourth anniversary [commemoration] of the NCA, and plans for lasting peace and national reconciliation.”

The KNU’s Padoh Saw Hla Tun said that at the meeting with the State Counselor, the KNU was able to “clarify uncertain and undecided issues”, which would help implementation of the peace process in the future.

“As far as we know, these meetings are important for the KNU to make their decision on whether to join the JICM or not,” said Dr. Min Zaw Oo, an adviser to the Myanmar Peace Commission and director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security.

He said it was possible the KNU leaders reached some agreements during their separate meetings with the State Counselor and the Army chief, as the KNU wanted to meet them for talks to overcome impasses in the peace process.

The KNU delegation led by Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe poses with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi after their meeting on Oct. 28, 2019. / Karen National Union

As negotiators are trying to move the peace process forward, “such meetings are a good sign and will help to achieve peace and political negotiation,” said political and ethnic affairs analyst U Ye Tun, a former Lower House member for Hsipaw Township, Shan State.

The EAOs that have signed the NCA and the government planned to hold the 8th JICM in Naypyitaw following the NCA anniversary commemoration, but it was postponed, partly due to the absence of the RCSS.

The RCSS delegation, led by its chairman, General Yawd Serk, canceled its participation and subsequent meetings after the Myanmar military’s Central Eastern Command blocked it from using the route proposed by the RCSS in Shan State.

Despite that, the latest pre-JICM discussions, with participation from other NCA signatories, were held last Friday. Participants have so far laid out eight points to be agreed at the formal JICM.

The KNU delegates were not present at most of the JICM pre-discussions, so their meetings with the State Counselor and the Army chief will help to build confidence, Dr. Min Zaw Oo said.

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