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Burma: Thein Sein Government Starts Peace Talk With Karen National Union – OpEd

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By Zin Linn

The 19-member peace-talk delegation of Karen National Union left the border town of Myawaddy Wednesday morning for official ceasefire talks in Pa-an Town, capital of Karen State, with Burmese government representatives on Thursday, January12, Karen News said.

Burma’s Thein Sein government anticipates signing a preliminary truce with the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the world’s oldest rebellions, at peace talks today.

According to the Karen News, the KNU key delegates are General Mutue Sae Poe, Padoh Saw David Taw, Padoh Saw Ah Toe, Brigadier General Johnny, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Khin, Major Shisho, Major Ei Tha, Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, Padoh Saw Lay Law Hsaw, Padoh Saw Aung Maw Aye, Padoh Saw Shwe Maunn and Padoh Saw Eh Wah.

In addition, there will be another seven-member KNU team led by Padoh Saw Thawthi Bwe comprises a medic, two officers from the KNLA and three security personnel responsible for the safety of the main delegation.

The KNU delegation will set off their talk on January 12 with representatives of the Burmese government in Pa-an, capital of Karen State.

Railways Minister Aung Min has headed the Union Government’s peace committee together with Industry Minister Soe Thein and Immigration Minister Khin Yi as members. They arrived Wednesday in Pa-an to be present at the talks planned Thursday.

As reported by Karen News, the KNU will talk based on eleven key points including a demand for the Burmese government to stop military operations in ethnic areas, to start a nationwide ceasefire as soon as possible, to guarantee the human rights and safety of civilians, to build trust, to plan development projects that allow full participation and decision making of local villagers, to immediately stop forced labor and to stop excessive taxation and extortion of villagers.

Padoh Saw David Taw, secretary of the KNU Peace Committee and also a member of the delegation spoke to Karen News : “I don’t think there will be any big problems arising at the meeting since we are only discussing with the government about what we have set out. To get a ceasefire agreement this is the first step and we know both sides want to have ceasefire agreement.”

A network of Karen community-based-organizations on the Thai Burma border on the eve of official ceasefire talks between the Karen National Union and the Burma government have issued a media statement calling for third party observers to be involved.

The Karen Community Based Organisations (KCBO) issued a media statement Wednesday. The statement says: “There must be third-party international community observers to monitor the peace talk process.”

KCBO spokesperson, Saw Eh Htoo Soe explained to Karen News that they want independent international observers at the ‘peace talks’. Because, in the past there were ceasefire agreements that were easily broken. So, they want to see credible and independent witnesses guaranteeing the agreements to be binding.

“With independent witnesses at the talks, we will know who has not honored the agreements. It is normal practice between warring sides to have independent third parties to keep everyone honest,” Saw Eh Htoo Soe said.

As said by Saw David Thrac Kabaw, KNU’s vice chairman, it is difficult to know what the ‘real agenda’ of Burmese government.

“Our past experience has been that the real power always lies in the hands of the military hardliners and in the past they have not hesitated to use guns against ethnic people. Burma Army’s offensive against the Kachin is very brutal. The Burma Army has moved almost two thirds of its soldiers there,” David Thrac Kabaw told Karen News.

He also said that KNU regard all ethnic people in Burma as allies. All ethnic people have suffered the same plight as the Karen people.

“The ethnic alliance is still strong despite the rumors being spread by the government, mischief makers and black propaganda – we still believe ethnic unity is strength,” he said.

The KNU has been struggling for equal right and self-determination since January 31, 1949 and has been fighting against the Burma’s successive military regimes for more than 60 years.

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