Norway Deputy FM to Meet KNU, Visit Burma
By Saw Yan Naing 25 May 2012
Norway’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Torgeir Larsen is planning to meet with leaders of the Karen National Union (KNU) during his visit to Burma beginning next week, according to the rebel leaders.
Naw Zipporah Sein, general secretary of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that Larsen planned to meet the Karen group during his trip, and may also visit its new liaison office in Kyaukgyi Township of Pegu Division.
He is also planning to meet Burmese opposition groups in Chiang Mai on Wednesday to discuss Norway’s future role in Burma, according to diplomatic sources.
The Norwegian Embassy, however, is yet to release any official announcement about the meeting, but the time and place have been confirmed by email to humanitarian aid agencies such as Norwegian Church Aid, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium and Burma Relief Centre, as well as The Irrawaddy.
“I hope [Larsen] will brief us about Norway’s further plans for the peace initiative process,” said Zipporah Sein.
“[Larsen] said he would like to visit Kyaukgyi. But we are not sure whether he will visit internally displaced persons [IDPs]. I think he wants to visit our liaison office in Kyaukgyi,” she added.
There are three KNU liaison offices currently open in Karen State which are financially assisted by the Norwegian government through its US $5 million peace support pilot project led by Charles Petrie, who was UN coordinator for Burma.
It is believed that Larsen would like to observe firsthand the work around Kyaukgyi being conducted by the Norwegian Peace Support Initiative (NPSI) with the cooperation of the KNU and other relief groups on the ground.
The NPSI has already completed one needs assessment in Kyaukgyi District with the permission of Burmese government and local groups. The multi-million-dollar scheme will aim to relocate civilians to regions of northeastern Burma which are safe for habitation and development by preparing the ground for the return of IDPs.