Military, KNU Leaders Hold Informal Talks in Yangon

By Nyein Nyein 15 May 2019

CHIANG MAI, Thailand—Karen National Union leaders met with the Myanmar military chief in Yangon on May 11 for what a senior KNU official described as talks that were informal and personal but which nonetheless made progress toward reviving regular meetings between the two sides.

Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, the vice chair of the KNU, said the informal meeting between chairman General Saw Mutu Sae Poe and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was held at the invitation of the Army chief.

Until last May, the KNU and the military chief tried to maintain regular formal talks. Under the previous government, the talks were held every one or two months starting in December 2014They have been suspended for months, however, except for a sideline meeting in October when the military chief met with KNU leaders and Peace Process Steering Team members in the capital.

“We are now trying to have regular discussions between the parties [the KNU and the military chief], as it has been about five, six, seven months since we have held [such a meeting with the Army chief],” Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

He said the relationship between the KNU and the military was generally good, although there were still some areas that needed improvement.

The KNU is the only ethnic armed group that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) whose chair maintains direct contact with the senior general. Talks have not been held since KNU and government troops clashed in Papun district of Karen State in March 2018 over the repair of an old road in the area and the KNU’s subsequent decision in October to suspend its participation in the formal peace process.

During the latest informal meeting, Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win said the KNU shared the view of the other NCA signatories, which is that the peace process has stalled.

He said, “We talked about [the need to] implement a continuous political dialogue and to strengthen ceasefires. He [the Army chief] shares the same view that the political dialogue needs to move forward.”

The military has vowed to achieve peace in the country by 2020, by which it means ending the armed conflicts, while continuing political negotiations with the EAOs, who would keep their arms.

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win added that he believes the military is adhering firmly to its stand that it will continue along the NCA path to achieve a democratic federal state.

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