By Naw Noreen
The Karen National Union (KNU) is reporting that Aung San Suu Kyi will meet with their leaders early next month.
A senior KNU official, who spoke anonymously, told DVB a delegation led by KNU general secretary Naw Zipporah Sein and general Mutu Say Pho will hold union-level peace talks with the government on 4 April. The group is also planning to meet with Karen political parties and organisations as well as Aung San Suu Kyi prior to the negotiations; however, a date has not been set.
The delegation will meet with Karen political parties including Kayin People’s Party, Union Kayin League and the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party as well as other Karen civil society groups and religious leaders.
This would be the first meeting between the politically influential Suu Kyi and the major ethnic minority delegation that has been in armed struggle for more than 60 years.
The KNU official said the delegation would urge Suu Kyi to support the country’s ethnic minorities.
It was Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, who as the head of Burma’s interim government in 1947, brought together Shan, Chin and Kachin leaders during the Panglong Conference to discuss autonomy.
Aung San however was killed later that year and no further progress on ethnic rights was made. About 135 minority groups live in Burma, predominantly in the country’s volatile border regions, which have hosted decades-long conflicts against the ruling junta.
In 1997, several ethnic groups including the KNU held a conference where they mutually agreed to form a federal union that would promote equal ethnic rights and self-determination. Suu Kyi is said to have supported the move.
Since that time, Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, suggested in 2010 that a second Panglong Conference should be held; however, no concrete plans for such an event have been laid out.