BANGKOK — The Myanmar government said it did not blame the Karen Nation Union (KNU) for setbacks in the national peace process following the ethnic armed group’s recent decision to temporarily suspend participation in negotiations.
“We don’t blame anyone in regards to the current peace [process]; it is normal,” government spokesman U Zaw Htay said of the KNU’s move.
“We can meet such challenges because we are nearer to overcoming the deep problems regarding peace,” he said at a press conference in Naypyitaw on Monday.
The spokesman urged ethnic armed groups (EAOs) to speak openly with the government and military so that they can help each other.
In a letter on Saturday to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who also chairs the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, the KNU said it would temporarily stop taking part in negotiations with the government and military to give itself time to consult with its members on the current state of the peace process.
U Zaw Htay said he hoped thorough discussions within the KNU would ultimately help move the national peace process forward and noted that the group managed to overcome internal divisions before signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015.
“Therefore we fully believe the KNU will overcome this challenge regarding the political talks,” he said.
KNU Vice Chairman Padoh Kwe Htoo Win told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the group remained committed to achieving a sustainable peace through negotiations based on the NCA.
But he confirmed that the EAOs, government and military made no progress in addressing the military’s demands that armed groups forsake secession and agree to a single military when they met for a peace summit in Naypyitaw earlier this month, though they did agree to a rough schedule for further negotiations.
Padoh Kwe Htoo Win said KNU members needed to “reach a common understanding.” And while the group operated on democratic principles and harbored diverse opinions, he added, “that does not mean we are divided.”
He said the KNU would hold consultations with its members on the NCA — in light of recent changes to the implementation process — and the current structure of the negotiation process. But he did not expect the consultations to take long.
U Zaw Htay said the government also wanted to stick to the process laid out in the NCA, especially since they were already about halfway through the implementation process.
The government, military and EAOs have already agreed to review the current structure of the negotiation process in order to make it more inclusive.
EAOs are also planning to meet with the government and political parties represented in the Union, region and state parliaments to discuss the negotiation process later this week in Yangon.