Sources say Chinese Authorities Meet KNU Leadership in Kunming

By The Irrawaddy 15 February 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Chinese authorities met the chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU) in Kunming recently, and it is believed they discussed a role for the Chinese in Burma’s peace process, sources told The Irrawaddy.

Several sources on the China-Burma border who are close to the ethnic armed groups reported that KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Say Poe was invited by Chinese authorities to visit a few days ago, and a Chinese official met the KNU delegation in Kunming.

The KNU delegation lobbied Chinese authorities to pressure the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) into signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), according to a source close to the KNU.

The KNU source said Saw Mutu Say Poe traveled to China with Harn Yawnghwe of the Euro-Burma Office and Saw Tu Tu Lay, who is a peace process advisor to the KNU.

Harn Yawnghwe is also an advisor to the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). He and Tu Tu Lay are well-known players behind the scenes of Burma’s peace process.

It is expected that a Chinese delegation will also visit Chiang Mai, Thailand in the near future to hold meetings and to talk about the peace process with other ethnic armed groups, the sources reported.

The moves by China follow comments made by the Chinese ambassador to Burma in state media in early February that China is pushing for ethnic armed groups in northern Burma to sign the NCA in order to reduce fighting near the China-Burma border.

Ambassador Hong Liang said that China also encouraged the respective groups remain in “close contact” for discussions and urged them to overcome “misunderstandings,” which he blamed as the main reason for the ethnic armed organizations’ reluctance to sign the NCA.

“By signing the NCA, battles can be avoided, and there can be guarantees for peace and stability along the China-Myanmar border,” said Ambassador Hong Liang.

Sources close to the ethnic armed groups in northern Burma also said that the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), the armed wing of the RCSS, was invited for talks in Laiza, a border town in Kachin State.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) will hold a three-day-long conference on Feb. 20 which many ethnic armed groups are expected to attend, including members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an ethnic armed alliance which represents several NCA non-signatories.