The Karen National Union (KNU) and government peace negotiators signed the second draft of a troop “code of conduct” after two-day peace talks concluded in the Karen State capital Pa-an on Tuesday.
“We both have negotiated and agreed for a code of conduct in principle and signed it. It is the second draft as we negotiated and amend it during discussions,” said Naw May Oo Mutraw, the spokesperson of the KNU.
The code of conduct will now be submitted to President Thein Sein for approval. It will be reviewed by his office and then finalized by the KNU and Naypyidaw peace delegation in the next round of negotiations, she added.
The government delegation also agreed in principle for the repositioning of its frontline troops. However, the military relocation sites proposed by the ethnic rebels first have to be reviewed by Vice-Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Burmese armed forces.
The KNU and Naypyidaw representatives agreed to hold further talks over the government’s troop relocation and withdrawal from areas of Karen State populated by Karen communities, said peace broker Hla Maung Shwe, who was at the Pa-an meeting as part of the government delegation.
Both sides discussed five subjects including the code of conduct which government and rebel troops must obey in order to cement a permanent ceasefire. The code of conduct was made up of 11 chapters and 34 detailed points—including safety for civilians.
KNU General-Secretary Zipporah Sein signed the agreement on behalf of the KNU while Aung Min, the chief of the Naypyidaw peace team, signed for the government side, said Hla Maung Shwe. He revealed that the old adversaries also agreed to hold further peace talks before the end of the year and to continue towards a political dialogue.
David Takapaw, the vice-president of the KNU, said that he will be amongst top ethnic leaders when a political dialogue is finally arranged. He also said that the discussion will be held under the stewardship of the United Nationalities Federal Council ethnic alliance group.
The KNU and Naypyidaw delegation will take more time to discuss the relocation and withdrawal of government troops, said Hla Maung Shwe. Aung Min told the meeting on Tuesday that the KNU is the most disciplined among ethnic armies, adding that the code of conduct was a positive development and peace talks were successful.
Aung Min reportedly said that the KNU has a clear position and was more principled than the other ethnic groups. To guarantee safety for civilians, the rebels urged the government to withdraw its troops from villages abandoned by Karen villagers.
This week saw the third round of peace talks since the signing of an initial ceasefire on Jan. 12. The KNU is one of Burma’s most important ethnic armed groups and has been fighting against central government rule for 63 years.