YANGON—The Karen National Union (KNU), a major ethnic armed organization based in Karen State, has called on the Myanmar Army to stop building roads connecting four districts in the north of the state.
Following its conference from Nov. 26-Dec. 1, the KNU’s Toungoo District chapter issued a statement expressing concerns over the Tatmadaw’s building of a road linking Papun, Nyaunglaybin, Toungoo and Thaton districts.
“What we understand is that they [the Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw] are building this road to improve their access to the area,” said Saw Thu Kabi, a spokesperson for the KNU’s Toungoo District chapter.
The KNU believes the road is intended for military purposes, he said, adding that local people also have concerns about it.
“If such a road is to be built, it should be built by the government’s Construction Ministry, and not by the military,” he said, explaining the position reached by the KNU at the conference.
“We, the KNU, can build the road, and we don’t need the Tatmadaw or government to build it,” he added.
“We want the government and concerned leaders to know that [roadbuilding] seriously undermines the peace process. We want to urge them not to continue [with projects] that we oppose,” he said.
Military tensions have been running high since clashes broke out between the Tatmadaw and the KNU’s Brigade No. 5 after the former built a road in Papun District earlier this year. The clashes displaced over 2,000 local people.
The KNU has called on the Tatmadaw to stop building the road in order not to disrupt the peace process.
Asked about by the KNU’s statement by The Irrawaddy, Colonel Wunna Aung, secretary-2 of the Union Level Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee, said the group’s claim had not been discussed, as the KNU had not filed a complaint with the committee.
The Irrawaddy was not able to reach the Tatmadaw True News Information Team for comment.
The KNU bases its Brigade No. 2 in Toungoo, Brigade No. 5 in Papun, Brigade No. 3 in Nyaunglaybin and Brigade No. 1 in Thaton.
The KNU signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government of then-President U Thein Sein in 2015. It recently suspended its participation in official peace talks, however, due to disagreements with the Tatmadaw over the issues of integrating all armed forces into a single military, and non-secession.
The KNU says it remains open to informal peace talks.