KNU Likely to Rejoin Formal Peace Talks

By Nyein Nyein 14 January 2019

CHIANG MAI, Thailand—Myanmar government peace negotiators have said their latest round of informal talks with Karen National Union (KNU) leaders saw progression towards resuming formal peace negotiations which have been stalled since early November.

“Both sides (the government and the KNU) are trying to get back on track as soon as possible and the informal negotiations channel is for [informal to formal meetings] only,” said U Zaw Htay, spokesperson and director general of the State Counselor’s Office, which is overseeing the peace process.

Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo, secretary of the KNU, pledged that they would move forward with the current peace process.

No further details on the negotiations were disclosed by either side.

Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo led the KNU delegation in the informal talks with the government, accompanied by the KNU’s military and security affairs advisor Col. Saw Htoo Htoo Lay, head of foreign affairs Padoh Saw Taw Nee and others.

U Zaw Htay accompanied the secretary of the Peace Commission U Khin Zaw Oo, commission member U Aung Soe and advisor U Hla Maung Shwe on separate meetings with a number of ethnic armed organizations. Following the KNU meeting on Sunday, they met the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Monday.

The informal talks follow a series of similar talks in November and December with the same delegation in Chiang Mai.

The KNU leads the Peace Process Steering Team, a group made up of the 10 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatories, but due to some internal issues it did not attend discussions with its allies for a number of months.

KNU negotiation leadership has also shifted within vice chairman Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win being replaced with secretary Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo last year.

Speculations have arisen surrounding the KNU’s possible exit from the steering team, with rumors that they would approach peace talks independently, but these claims have been denied by Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo. On Sunday he told reporters, “it is not true and we will continue our collaboration with other [ethnic armed organizations].”

Peace negotiations with both signatories and non-signatories of the NCA have been on and off under the current National League for Democracy government.

Though State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi leads the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC), it is former military leaders U Thein Zaw, the center’s vice chair, and Peace Commission Secretary U Khin Zaw Oo who lead the face-to-face negotiations with various ethnic armed organizations.

The current chief negotiators believe that sessions of the Panglong Peace Conferences—which are to be held biannually—should be conducted only when all NCA signatories take part, emphasizing the importance of KNU being involved in the process.

The Peace Commission has also been holding talks with NCA non-signatories and this month they are to meet ethnic armed organizations based in northern Shan State and Kachin State, according to U Zaw Htay.